Eggplant Parmesan Casserole is gooey, cheesy version of this classic Italian dish. It takes some time to prepare but it is worth every minute.
Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, 2016)
Makes 12 servings
For the Marinara:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine at room temperature
2 28-oz. whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
For the Eggplant and Assembly:
4 medium to large eggplants, peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
3 cups Panko
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten until just blended
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus more basil for serving
6 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
To prepare the Marinara: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil then cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1 1/2 cups water in one of the tomato cans and then the other and add to the pot. Season with salt. Transfer the pot to the oven, roast the sauce uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until thick and the tomatoes are browned on top and around the edges. Allow the sauce to cool and process in a food processor until smooth. Taste and season with salt, as needed.
For the Eggplant and Assembly:
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towel inside a rimmed baking sheet. Continue adding layers of paper towel and eggplant topping the last layer with paper towels. Place another baking sheet on top and weigh down with a heavy pot. Let the eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and 3/4 cup of parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl for dredging.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumb mixture, shake off any excess, Place on wire racks.
Heat 2/3 cup oil in large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Cook as many slices as will comfortably fit, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining oil and wiping out skillet, as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt.
Toss chopped herbs, grated mozzarella, and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. repeat with the remaining slices sauce and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 1 hour.
Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over the casserole. Increase oven temperature to 425F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Top with basil leaves just before slicing to serve.
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