This Cheese & Eggplant Casserole is an inspiration from the Italian eggplant parmesan. My family is not a big fan of eggplant, but now and then, we add it to our menu.
One summer day, we were brainstorming what to make for dinner. My daughter was craving something cheesy, and hubby wanted something dippable. Since I had a few eggplants in the fridge, this dish came to mind.
I scrolled through my Pinterest board, where I had one dedicated to eggplant recipes. There was Italian Eggplant Parmesan, but it had some steps that were not necessary, in my opinion. It called for double breading the eggplant before deep-frying it.
The Joy of Growing Your Food
Growing food in the garden is more rewarding when you get to use the harvest in the kitchen. The warm-season crops are the most generous, for one plant can produce more than one harvest.
There had to be some modifications made to the recipe to make the dish healthier. The first step was to drop the breading. Breading the eggplant with the trio of flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs increases the carb count and calories. The second step was replacing the deep-frying with oven roasting or grilling.
Omitting these two steps saved some 15 minutes of prep time with some dangerous calories.
Ditch the Deep Fryer
I used to think that eggplant is only delicious if fried. It turned out to be only a mindset. The secret to tasty grilled eggplant is slicing it half to three-quarter inches thick. Thinner slices are easy to dry and burn.
Sprinkling salt over the eggplant draws out the bitterness. Also, coating the slices with olive oil adds flavor.
Baking the eggplant at high temperatures is much better than broiling. Another option is to use a grill, but it does take time.
The Quickest Tomato Sauce
Homemade tomato sauce is delicious. I can’t believe I don’t make it more often. The uniqueness of this one is in using garden-fresh ingredients.
To make the sauce, put the chopped tomatoes, herbs, garlic, oil, and seasoning in a saucepan. Over high heat, bring them to a boil, then reduce the fire to a simmer. In ten minutes, the sauce should be ready for use.
The story of the cheeses
The authentic Eggplant Parmesan calls for high-quality cheeses. But, as a busy mom of four, I need to work with what I have and make it as budget-friendly as possible.
Mozzarella, fresh or shredded, is always available in my fridge. I also have grated Parmesan in a container. It does not taste like the freshly grated one, but it does the job.
Take into consideration the Sodium content of this recipe. Reduce the amount of salt you add to the sauce and the eggplants to balance it with the salt in the cheeses.
Now let’s put this goodness together. In a casserole dish, alternate the layers. Starting with the tomato sauce, then eggplant, followed by the cheeses. Repeat the process twice, ending with a cheese layer.
Remember to pre-heat the oven at 400F if you haven’t used it for the eggplant. Pop the casserole in the oven and bake for 20- 25 minutes. It should be bubbly and golden brown.
It’s All About Resting Time
Casserole dishes that contain cheese and tomato sauce need time to rest before consumption. The flavors continue to develop as the dish cools down. If you have some leftovers, trust me, it will taste even better.
Cheese Eggplant Casserole
- 2 big eggplants
- 4 tbsp olive oil, for brushing
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp basil, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
- 2 cups shredded cheddar
Prep the eggplant
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Wash the eggplants, then slice them into 1/2 inch thick disks.
- Sprinkle them with salt, then drizzle them with oil on both sides.
- Lay them flat in a parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Transfer to the oven and grill for 15 min.
- Preheat a saucepan, then add the oil.
- Add the chopped onion, garlic, tomatoes, basil, and bay leaf.
- Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.
- On a 9-by-13 casserole dish, spread some of the tomato sauce.
- Arrange one layer of eggplant over the sauce.
- Spread the cheeses covering the eggplant.
- Repeat the laying one second time, finishing with the cheese layer.
- Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
The nutritional values are approximated.