Whole Eggplant Parm

Many moons ago, my girlfriend Dana introduced me to the magical restaurant that is Via Carota. And on special that day was their eggplant parmesan. Crafted from an entire eggplant, almost like an eggplant gratin, and so soft and sumptuous you could eat it with a spoon. I set out on a mission to reverse engineer this dish, and in time, realized that because it’s so delicious, one eggplant just wouldn’t cut it. So I started making this eggplant parm in a giant casserole with 4 eggplants and I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to share a recipe more, so for the last time, here you go:

SHOPPING LIST: 4 large eggplants, 2 jars tomato sauce, 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, onion powder

Like most good things, this recipe takes TIME. It’s great to do on Saturday or Sunday when you’re hanging at home because you need about 4 hours to do this properly.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash your eggplants, and then slice each eggplant horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices BUT ONLY SLICING 90% of the way through each eggplant. That means your eggplants will still be in tack on the bottom but almost accordion-like on the top. Once this is completed, coat all 4 eggplants in olive oil, making sure to get in between the slices, and then generously sprinkle the eggplants, INSIDE THE SLICES AS WELL, with the garlic salt, pepper and onion powder. Salting your eggplant is a very important step because it will draw the moisture out of the eggplant so you don’t get a watery eggplant parm. Roast the oiled eggplants in the 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. As mentioned previously, when you remove the eggplants from the oven, there will be liquid in the bottom of the pan. STRAIN the liquid, I usually just use my oven its and tilt the casserole dish over my sink to get rid of the excess juices.

Next up is the tomato sauce, which I didn’t specify by brand, because, per usual, everyone has a favorite. I started making this recipe exclusively using Rao’s Arrabiata. Sometimes I go wild and do it with a vodka sauce! How outrageous! So whatever sauce you use, you want to completely cover the eggplants with the entire jar and then roast again for another 50 minutes. After the 50 minutes, a majority of your tomato sauce is going to be evaporated, so we repeat this step. I only end up using about 3/4 of the second jar of tomato sauce to coat the eggplants, and then they go back in the oven for 50 more minutes.

Now for the piece de resistance – HA! – also known as, THE CHEESE! I like to use your basic shredded mozzarella. You can get fancy and do a mix of mozzarella and parmesan or fontina. I like the top of this dish to be super cheesy, so whichever direction you choose, COAT YOUR EGGPLANTS LIBERALLY. Just go for it. Once you’ve got all your cheese on there, cover with another quick seasoning of garlic salt and pepper and finish in the oven for the final 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and blistered and perfect!

If you want to give your eggplant parm a bit of a “pizza” finish – one awesome way to spice up this dish is by topping your cheese layer with garlic powder, oregano and PEPPERONI!!!!!!!!! This was my brother-in-laws idea this summer and it was simply brilliant. Pizza toppings or not, I love serving this eggplant parm with HOT HONEY (a la my favorite chicken parm served at Quality Italian). Since the texture of this eggplant parm, aside from the blistered bits of cheese, is relatively soft, I love serving this alongside SUPER crispy, buttery garlic bread. You can almost spoon the eggplant parm on top for the absolute perfect bite. If you didn’t have weekend plans yet, now you do!

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