Long ago I decided to make the dish for the fetching young lady I had met in tennis class. She was – gasp – a vegetarian, and my limited arsenal of recipes had very little to offer in that arena. I already knew how to make chicken parmigiana. How hard could it be to swap out one simple, albeit key, ingredient?
I didn’t know it at the time, but that meal would play a role in our protracted courtship. Evidently I knocked it out of the park that night, for the Missus-to-be talked about that dinner for weeks, even months. She still talks about it today.
“I knew I could marry you after I tasted that eggplant parmigiana,” she later told me, tongue only partially in cheek.
It’s a hand-me down recipe from my Mom, a simple dish that packs plenty of flavor. And yes, you can swap out eggplant for chicken as I did with the same results – just make sure the chicken is given enough time to cook through the center before serving. Eggplant is far more forgiving in this area.
- 1 eggplant, medium sized (I prefer a long and thin eggplant because the slices it yields are easier to coat and cook)
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- Italian bread crumbs, as needed
- mozzarella cheese, generous handful
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil
- pasta, any variety
- salt and pepper to taste
- One tablespoon of sugar
- one egg
- 1/2 cup of milk
- one teaspoon of minced garlic
- Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pot along with the garlic. Cook for about a minute on medium heat.
- Pour the can of crushed tomatoes into the pot, add as much basil as you wish (a 1/4 of a cup, max) and stir. Add salt, pepper and sugar. Leave cooking on a low heat.
- Peel and slice an eggplant into 1/8-inch thick round slices. (You can cut thicker slices, but I find that size is ideal).
- Combine the egg and milk and whisk in a small bowl.
- Dip the eggplant slices into the egg/milk mixture, and then coat with bread crumbs.
- Put enough olive oil in a nonstick skillet to coat the bottom. Put the stove on medium heat and place the breaded eggplant slices in the oil. Turn after about a minute until both sides are a light golden brown. Put the browned slices on a large plate covered with two paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
- Pour the sauce into a long, oven safe pan that is at least 2-inches deep. Shake the pan gently to make the sauce settle in an even layer. Add the eggplant slices and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cook the eggplant and sauce at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
- Prepare pasta based on the directions on the box.
- Put the cooked pasta on a plate. Coat with the eggplant and sauce mix. Add a dash of parsley flakes to make the dish look more appealing, and you’re ready to serve.
(Should yield enough for 4-5 people)
Are there any special recipes in your life? Meals that had an impact far beyond the typical dinner? Please share them below … I’m guessing I’m not the only one with a tale to tell.