Baked Eggplant Marinara with Basil
- ACTIVE: 40 MIN
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN
- SERVINGS: 4
Salvatore Denaro's luscious version of melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant Parmesan) is a sort of oven-baked eggplant sandwich enclosing hard-cooked eggs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and lots of fresh, late-summer basil. As this recipe indicates, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese isn't a necessary ingredient. Be sure to use a good fresh mozzarella sold in brine, not the plastic-wrapped kind, which can get quite rubbery. Since the dish is served at room temperature, it can be prepared well ahead of time.
- 2 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise 1/3 inch thick (1 3/4 pounds)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/4 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
- 2 cups thick marinara sauce
- 3 large hard-cooked eggs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt the eggplant slices and layer them in a colander. Cover with a plate and weight down with a large can. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant slices dry.
- Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large skillet, heat 1/8 inch of oil. Fry the eggplant slices in batches over moderately high heat until browned and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs in a 10-inch round baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices in the dish, overlapping them slightly. Spread the marinara sauce over the eggplant and arrange the hard-cooked egg slices on top. Cover with the mozzarella. Scatter the basil leaves over the cheese and season with black pepper. Arrange the remaining eggplant slices on top. Cover with foil and bake until heated through and the mozzarella is just melted, about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the broiler. Uncover the baked eggplant and sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Drizzle with the olive oil and broil until browned, about 2 minutes. Let the eggplant rest for at least 10 minutes and up to 30. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
This basil-inflected version of eggplant Parmesan is incredibly flavorful but not that heavy, which is why it pairs so well with the bright fruit and light body of an Umbrian rosé.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.