Eggplant Parmigiana | RecipeTin Eats

Eggplant Parmigiana is the vegetarian version of Chicken Parmigiana, and is a low-carb dream come true. Called Parmigiana di Melanzane in Italian and known as Eggplant Parmesan in the US, it’s essentially a Lasagna made with thin slices of eggplant instead of pasta, layered with tomato sauce, fresh basil and plenty of molten cheese.

To say this is outrageously good would be the understatement of the year. This is epic vegetarian comfort food, at its best!

White baking dish with Eggplant Parmigiana, fresh out of the oven

Eggplant Parmigiana

If Moussaka is Greece’s answer to Italian Lasagna, then Eggplant Parmigiana is Italy’s comeback. And what a comeback it is!!!

This is one of those incredible vegetarian dishes that’s so good, nobody pauses for a moment to wonder “where’s the meat??”.

It’s comfort food to the max. It oozes with cheesy goodness. It’s slick with fresh tomato sauce. It’s littered with the subtle freshness of basil. And with every bite, you get a mouthful of the juicy soft eggplant layers.

There are a few steps involved in making this. But as one of the greatest vegetarian-low-carb dishes imaginable, it is worth second!

Close up of a piece of Eggplant Parmigiana being scooped out of a dish
Slice of Eggplant Parmigiana on a plate

The 3 Parts of Eggplant Parmigiana

Here are the 3 parts of Eggplant Parmigiana:

  1. Thin slices of eggplant – I opt to bake rather than the traditional deep frying in an copious amounts of oil. I guarantee you won’t miss the oil (but your hips will thank you for it!);

  2. Tomato sauce (Sugo) – A semi quick one that we simmer for 30 minutes to develop flavour, breakdown the tomato and thicken so it’s not watery; and

  3. Fresh Basil & Cheese – for layering.

What you need to make Eggplant Parmigiana

1. Eggplant slices

First up, here’s all you need for the eggplant slices:

Eggplants for Eggplant Parmigiana
  • Eggplants / aubergines – We need 4 to 5 sizeable eggplants for this recipe. 1.8kg / 3.6lb in total. Sounds like a lot, but we need them! Eggplant shrinks when cooked, and we need enough to cover 3 layers of a full size casserole dish. Also, the eggplant is sliced about 3 times thicker than it is for Greek Moussaka, so we need more; and

  • Olive oil – For brushing the slices before we bake them.

2. Tomato sauce (“Sugo”)

The sauce for Eggplant Parmigiana is a classic Italian tomato Sugo (which means “sauce” in Italian). It’s thicker than what you’d make for pasta because otherwise the Eggplant Parmigiana will be too sloppy and impossible to serve (reasonably!) neat slices.

Here’s what you need:

Ingredients in Tomato Sauce for Eggplant Parmigiana
  • Tomato Passata – Pureed, strained pure tomatoes, sometimes labelled Tomato Puree in the US (here’s a photo of Mutti Tomato Passata sold at Walmart). Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. It’s excellent for making thick, smooth sauces. More on Tomato Passata here;

  • Crushed or finely diced Tomato – The better the quality, the better your sauce! Cheap canned tomato tends to be sour and not really taste of what it should ie tomato!

  • Oregano – Or basil will work a treat here;

  • Garlic – Lots of it! Primary flavouring for this dish; and

  • Sugar – Just a touch, to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomato. If you have the time to simmer the tomato sauce and simmer it for 1 1/2 hours you can skip the sugar.

3. Cheese & basil for layers

And for sandwiching between each layer as well as finishing the top:

Ingredients in Eggplant Parmigiana
  • Parmesan – Essential flavouring and seasoning for this dish, used to sprinkle on each layer;

  • Mozzarella – I did say right upfront there’s plenty of molten cheesy goodness in Eggplant Parmigiana! Hey, we can afford the calories here, remember, this is a low-carb dish!

  • Fresh basil – Used to scatter on each and every layer as well as garnishing the finished dish.

How to make Eggplant Parmigiana

Bake eggplant slices > Make Sauce > Assemble & bake!

1. Baked Eggplant Slices

How to make Eggplant Parmigiana
  1. Eggplant slices – Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 8mm / 1/3″ thick slices. Place onto 3 lined trays then brush each side with olive oil; and

  2. Bake in a 220°C/430°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned.

No salt? That’s right, no salt. You often see recipes calling for salt sprinkled on the raw eggplant to draw water out which tenderises the flesh and makes the eggplant absorb less oil when cooking. Common wisdom also claims that salt removes the bitter taste in eggplants. However the reality is modern eggplants have had any bitterness bred out of them so it’s not a necessary step today.

We do not need to salt the eggplant for Eggplant Parmigiana because we found that it makes the dish too salty once you add the parmesan (even after patting the moisture off). Also for this dish, the tomato sauce makes the eggplant flesh beautifully tender and juicy. So, no salt!

3 trays filled with baked eggplant for Eggplant Parmigiana
Slice of raw eggplant brushed with olive oil, ready to be baked for Eggplant Parmigiana.
Close up of baked slices of eggplant for Eggplant Parmigiana
Lightly browned cooked eggplant slices.

2. Tomato sauce

How to make Eggplant Parmigiana
  1. Sauté onion and garlic with the oil, then add everything else (tomato passata, crushed tomato, oregano or basil, salt and pepper); and

  2. Simmer for 30 minutes until it reduces into a fairly thick sauce, as pictured below. You should be able to draw a path along the base so it remains visible for a few seconds.

    The sauce needs to be thick otherwise you’ll end up with a sloppy Eggplant Parmigiana that can’t be sliced.

Black skillet fresh off the stove with Eggplant Parmigiana tomato sauce

3. Assembling and baking Eggplant Parmigiana

How to make Eggplant Parmigiana
  1. Smear some tomato sauce on the base of a baking dish. This stops the first layer of eggplant from sliding around;

  2. Eggplant layer – Top with a layer of eggplant, using 1/3 of the eggplant;

  3. Tomato Sauce – Spread with 1/3 of the tomato sauce;

  4. Olive oil – Drizzle with olive oil;

  5. Basil – Scatter with 1/3 of the basil leaves;

  6. Parmesan & mozzarella – Sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan and mozzarella;

  7. Repeat – then repeat twice more ie 3 layers. However, don’t put basil on the top layer (we’ll save it for a fresh garnish once baked); and

  8. Bake for 25 minutes in a 180°C / 350°F oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden, and the smells wafting out of your oven are knee-bucklingly good!

Finish with a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves just before serving.

White casserole dish with freshly made Eggplant Parmigiana

Let the Eggplant Parmigana rest for 5 to 10 minute before cutting to serve. This helps ensure you can cut neat(ish) slices, like so:

Close up photo of a slice of Eggplant Parmigiana
Close up of fork eating Eggplant Parmigiana

Meat-free food this good could even convert me into a vegetarian…

OK, I’m totally exaggerating there. Just a throwaway line that sounds good so I can convince you to make this! 😂 Everybody knows that I’m a sucker for roasts. I could never give up meat!!! – Nagi x

PS The Eggplant Parmigiana is pictured above with a Rocket and Parmesan Salad, minus the parmesan because I figure I’ve already used enough in the dish! (That’s Arugula Salad, to those of you in the States). Any big green leafy salad will work a treat here. See here for all my side salads and vegetables.

Watch how to make it

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White baking dish with Eggplant Parmigiana, fresh out of the oven

Eggplant Parmigiana (Parmigiana di Melanzane)

Servings8 – 10 people

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. There’s a little labour involved in this. But you’ll be rewarded with one of the all-time greatest vegetarian comfort foods known to man kind!Assemble ahead then pop in the oven to bake when you’re ready!


Baked Eggplant:

  • Line three large trays with baking/parchment paper.

  • Brush eggplant slices on each side with oil. (Don’t salt)

  • Arrange in a single layer and bake at 220°C/430°F (200°C fan) for about 35 – 45 mins or until browning and tender, turning the eggplant halfway. The tray on the bottom shelf may need to stay in for an extra 5 minutes or so.

  • Leave on trays to cool.

Tomato Sauce (Sugo):

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  • Sauté onions and garlic for 3 minutes until softened and just starting to colour on the edges.

  • Pour in the passata , canned tomatoes, water, oregano and sugar. Stir and bring to a simmer.

  • Simmer uncovered for about 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened, adding the basil stalks halfway through cooking (so they don’t lose their flavour).

  • The final consistency should be slightly thicker than a pasta sauce so it’s spreadable and not leeching liquid, but not too pasty either. Add extra water a little at a time if required during cooking if it gets too thick. Remove the stalks and discard.

  • Stir in salt and pepper. (Remember, we get salt from the parmesan too)

Assembling & baking:

  • Reduce oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan).

  • Smear a little tomato sauce in the bottom of baking dish.

  • Layer 1: Lay one third of the eggplant so it covers the base (some overlap is OK when layering eggplant). Spread 1/3 of the remaining sugo over eggplant. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan. 1/3 of basil leaves.

  • Layer 2: Repeat with 1/3 eggplant, tomato sauce, olive oil, basil and parmesan.

  • Layer 3 (top layer): Repeat again with eggplant, tomato sauce and olive oil. Do not put basil on top layer (we will garnish after baking). Scatter with parmesan then mozzarella.

  • Bake for 25 mins until bubbling and golden.

  • Rest: Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Scatter over remaining fresh basil leaves. Cut like lasagna and serve! (Optional: sprinkle with extra parmesan).

Recipe Notes:

1. Eggplant (aubergine) – No need to salt, it makes the overall dish too salty. Eggplant will become tender with the pre-baking on trays, then baking with sauce. Contrary to popular wisdom, salting is not required to draw out bitterness. It’s been bred out of modern eggplants.
2. Mozzarella cheese – feel free to use other cheese (like cheddar, gruyere etc) but cut back a bit on the parmesan on the top layer so the dish isn’t too salty.
3. Passata – pureed, strained pure tomatoes, sometimes labelled Tomato Puree in the US (here’s a photo of Mutti Tomato Passata sold at Walmart). Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. Smooth and thick rather than chunky like canned tomato, so no need to simmer to break down the tomato. More crushed canned tomato can be used instead, but simmer sauce for extra 15 minutes.
4. Canned tomato – Mutti polpa/pulped tomatoes is my preferred. Best to use finely chopped or crushed, will break down nicely in required cook time. If using normal diced or chopped, then sauce will be a bit chunkier. Remember, with canned tomato, you get what you pay for. Cheap canned tomatoes tend to be quite sour and firm.
5. Adapted from this recipe by Gourmet Traveller. Changes we made: we don’t fry the eggplant (really, you won’t miss it). We don’t salt the eggplant (it was too salty). And we don’t blend the sauce (it’s really not necessary, and some texture is nice). And they don’t top with mozzarella (criminal!).
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 8 servings.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 352cal (18%)Carbohydrates: 27g (9%)Protein: 17g (34%)Fat: 22g (34%)Saturated Fat: 8g (50%)Cholesterol: 35mg (12%)Sodium: 841mg (37%)Potassium: 970mg (28%)Fiber: 10g (42%)Sugar: 15g (17%)Vitamin A: 960IU (19%)Vitamin C: 19mg (23%)Calcium: 418mg (42%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

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