We all have our go-to dishes at Italian restaurants. Depending on the restaurant, gnocchi or eggplant is usually my go-to. I’m a sucker for a good gnocchi dish, but sometimes I want something besides only fluffy gnocchi covered in sauce. (I know, how could I!?) That’s where the eggplant comes in. With a mix of eggplant, pasta, and usually some vegetables, it’s a no brainer. And that’s saying a lot because I’m normally a very indecisive person.
My family grew up always going to Carrie Cerino’s for dinner and I ALWAYS get the gnocchi, it’s homemade and amazing! But, enough restaurant talk for now… (What’s your favorite Italian restaurant??).
Even though you can buy eggplant all year, it’s technically only in season from July to October. That was a surprise to me, I always thought of eggplant as more of winter food. Maybe because I always make it with comforting dishes, like this one!
There’s nothing worse than mushy breaded eggplant. You know what I’m talking about, you take a bite and the breading is mushy from the sauce and the eggplant is even mushier. Yuck. I’m sharing a trick so you never have to experience mushy eggplant again! Instead of frying the eggplant slices, we’re baking them in the oven! I originally tried this idea because I really didn’t feel like standing over the stove cooking each batch of eggplant. And I thought maybe it would be healthier to bake it in the oven. To my surprise, the heat of the oven helps to suck out the excess moisture from the eggplant and keeps the outside nice and crispy! If you’re short on time, you can always use jarred marinara sauce. But I think it’s worth the few extra steps to make your own!
Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Pasta Sauce
|Yield: Serves about 4 people|
Crispy oven baked eggplant and pasta with homemade marinara sauce.
- Marinara Sauce:
- 14 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup Romano cheese
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups spinach
- 3 large carrots, sliced
- 10 ounces dry pasta
- Optional Toppings:
- 4 tablespoons pesto sauce
- 1 cup mozzarella, torn in small pieces
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- Make the sauce: Add all sauce ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer while you prep the other ingredients.
- Make the eggplant: Preheat oven 375 degrees. Mix breadcrumbs and cheese together. Bread eggplant - first dip eggplant slice in eggs, then in breadcrumb mixture. Place on a greased baking sheet lined with a wire rack. Bake 12 - 18 minutes, until eggplant is golden brown and crispy. The last 2 minutes, top with mozzarella cheese and melt.
- Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.
- Cook the vegetables: Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Heat over medium heat. Add carrots, and spinach and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
- Coat pasta with marinara sauce. Stir in cooked vegetables. Divide the eggplant among the 4 dishes. Top with pasta. Top with optional toppings, if desired.
images and text © North Coast Eats
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