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Baked Italian Eggplant

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This baked eggplant recipe – a thinner, sheet-pan version of the Italian Eggplant Parmigiana – will please vegetarians and meat lovers. Layers of grilled eggplant smothered in a rich and savoury tomato sauce cooked with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and a touch of chilli and baked with Mozzarella and Parmesan for that golden cheesy, gooey crust finish.


Baked Italian Eggplant Parmesan

Sheet Pan Baked Italian Eggplant (aka Eggplant Parmigiana)

This is one of those dishes that you make for a vegetarian guest but then all your meat-eating friends ask for the recipe. 

It’s pretty much Eggplant Parmigiana (or Eggplant Parmesan), except I make it as a sheet-pan, double-layer cheesy eggplant bake that’s thinner than the traditional casserole dish. 

A large flat tray rather than a deep baking dish does two things: a well-browned, crispy eggplant and cheese crust AND a seemingly higher ratio of cheese to tomato and eggplant (although the amounts used are similar to traditional recipes). 

In addition, my recipe has an incredibly flavourful tomato sauce, also known as sugo, made with lots of garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for a more intense, umami flavour. 

According to my dinner guests, this eggplant bake tastes like pizza and looks a bit like one too. It’s rich, savoury, smokey, cheesy, tomato-garlicky, and heavenly. 

If you’re looking for a delicious baked eggplant recipe to try, make sure to give this one a go! 

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana On A Sheet Pan Tray

What To Serve With Baked Italian Eggplant

This baked eggplant dish can stand alone as a main or be served as a side. Here are some meal suggestions:

  • Serve over rice or quinoa with a side of green salad or vegetables such as lightly cooked asparagus or broccolini.
  • It’s great with most pasta, couscous, cooked lentils or chickpeas or with a side of sourdough bread.
  • I made it as a side dish to share at our BBQ. We grilled meat and halloumi cheese and had a few lighter salads. The eggplant bake was like a secondary vegetarian main dish but also worked with all of the meat (chicken, sausages, lamb skewers). 
  • For a simple low-carb dinner, I would serve it with grilled chicken, steak or with roast lamb. 
  • Leftovers are great with fried eggs! 
  • I have to mention that it tastes great hot or cold. I would say it’s even better cooled down so I often leave it out for an hour after cooking before serving. 

Baked Italian Eggplant Parmigiana

How To Make Baked Italian Eggplant

There are three stages to making this dish, two of which you can do in parallel. Let’s break it down with some step-by-step-pics. Find the full recipe card with ingredients and nutritional breakdown below.

  • Pan-frying the eggplant
  • Making the thicken tomato sauce.
  • Baking the dish.

Prepare The Eggplant

Slice the eggplant vertically, into 0.5-0.8 cm slices. Arrange in a single layer, sprinkle evenly with a teaspoon of salt, then place the remaining slices on top and season with salt as well. The salt tenderises the flesh and makes the eggplant absorb less oil when cooking. It also reduces some of the bitterness that may be present in the eggplant (although most eggplants these days are not very bitter). 

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Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the sauce.

Prepare Other Ingredients

Prepare the tomato sauce ingredients. Finely dice the onion, and garlic, drain sun-dried tomatoes and chop if needed. Grate the cheeses. Mozzarella can be replaced with other well-melting cheese.

Make The Tomato Sauce

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan or a pot and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes until softened, then add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, chilli flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir through for a minute and add the canned chopped tomatoes (2 cans). 

Stir and cook for 15-20 minute over medium heat. Keep it uncovered and stir frequently as we want to evaporate the watery tomato liquid and thicken the sauce. You should be able to draw a path along the base of the pot that remains visible for a few seconds. This process will also intensify the flavours.  

Once done, use an immersion blender and partially puree the sauce. I do this directly in the pan. If you don’t have a blende, it’s okay to leave it chunky. 

Pan-Fry The Eggplant

This can be done in parallel to cooking the sauce. I use two frying pans to make the process a bit quicker. Heat the pans over medium-high heat and once really hot, add 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in each. If your pan is very large, you might need 2 tablespoons.

Use some paper towels or a kitchen towel to gently pat-dry the top layer of the eggplants. This will absorb the water drops and some of the salt. Place a few slices of eggplant in each pan in one layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until golden brown and a bit shorter on the opposite side.

Don’t worry if the pan gets a little dry. Only add extra oil if it feels like it might be burning. If more oil is needed, drizzle just a little bit around the sides or in between the eggplants and swirl around. 

Remove cooked eggplant to a bowl or another pan and set aside. Continue until all eggplant slices are done. 

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.

Assemble & Bake Eggplant Tomato & Cheese

Time to assemble it all. Smear a quarter of the sauce on the base of a sheet pan or baking dish. Top with a layer of eggplant, I use about half of it, some slices may overlap. 

Spread the eggplant with half of the remaining sauce. Layer the remaining slices on top and finish with the sauce. 

Finish with grated Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top. I ended up using 1.5 cups of Mozzarella thinking that it will need it but once it was baked all the cheese was melted, I think 1 cup of each is plenty unless you like it very cheesy. 

Pop in the oven, middle shelf, for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and golden brown all over. 

Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. It’s even better afer it sits for half an hour or so. It can absolutely be served barely warm or cold. 

Baked Italian Eggplant Recipe

Recipe Tips

  • We are using 4 medium to large eggplants and it might seem like a lot but eggplant shrinks as it cooks, so by the end it will be just the right amount.
  • I like using a large sheet pan to bake the eggplant. My pan size was big enough to arrange all of the pre-cooked eggplant in two layers. It results in a thin bake that can be cut into 9-12 pieces and I find that 1 to 2 slices is enough for one serving. If you have smaller sheet pans, you can do this in two batches. 
  • If all you have a deeper baking dish, use the one with the largest surface space. You may end up having three or even four layers of eggplant, in which case it will be almost like an eggplant pie or lasagna. Once baked, you can cut it into smaller slices. 
  • The tomato sauce is thicker than what you would make for pasta. If it’s too thin, the water can split and bleed out from the sauce while the eggplant bakes and the whole becomes too sloppy and saucy, which is not the intended result here. You want to keep the shape and make it easy to slice and serve as slices. In addition, this thicker, reduced sauce has a much more intense flavour as a result, which gives the whole dish such an incredible taste. 
See also  Creamy Tomato Italian Parmesan Chicken

Can You Bake The Eggplant Instead Of Frying First?

This question comes up a lot because pan-frying the eggplant requires a fair amount of oil, which of course adds calories to the dish. Mind you, cooked the way described in my recipe, each slice is about 290 calories if cut into 9 servings, it’s not outrageous.

An alternative is to bake the eggplant slices ahead of time. You will have to do this in a few batches. Slice the eggplant lengthwise. Place on to 2-3 lined trays and brush each side of every slice with olive oil, sprinkle very lightly with salt. Bake n a 220°C (430°F) oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the eggplant is lightly-browned.  

In my opinion, it’s much quick to pan-fry the eggplant but it will require more olive oil. 


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Full Recipe 

Find the full list of ingredients, instructions, and a nutritional breakdown below. If you have questions or cook this recipe, please let me know in the comments, and make sure to rate this recipe so it’s easy for others to find.

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Description

This baked Italian eggplant dish is sure to please vegetarians and meat lovers. Grilled eggplant is layered with a flavourful tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and chilli, and baked with Mozzarella and Parmesan for a deliciously cheesy crust. It’s a sheet pan version of Eggplant Parmigiana.



Prepare The Eggplant

  • Slice the eggplant vertically into 0.5-0.8mm slices. Arrange in a single layer, sprinkle evenly with a teaspoon of salt, then place the remaining slices on top and season with salt as well. The salt tenderises the flesh and makes the eggplant absorb less oil when cooking. It also reduces some of the bitterness that may be present in the eggplant (although most eggplants these days are not very bitter). 
  • Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
See also  Baked Sesame Tofu Sticks (Video)

Prepare Tomato Sauce

  • Prepare the tomato sauce ingredients. Finely dice the onion, and garlic, drain sun-dried tomatoes and chop if needed. Grate the cheeses. Mozzarella can be replaced with other well-melting cheese.
  • Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan or a pot and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes until softened, then add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, chili flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir through for a minute and add the canned chopped tomatoes (2 cans). 
  • Stir and cook for 15-20 minute over medium heat. Keep it uncovered and stir frequently as we want to evaporate the watery tomato liquid and thicken the sauce. You should be able to draw a path along the base of the pot that remains visible for a few seconds. This process will also intensify the flavours.  
  • Once done, use an immersion blender and partially puree the sauce. I do this direclty in the pan. If you don’t have a blende, it’s okay to leave it chunky. 

Pan-Fry The Eggplant

  • This can be done in parallel to cooking the sauce. I use two frying pans to make the process a bit quicker. Heat the pans over medium-high heat and once really hot, add 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil to each. If your pan is very large, you might need 2 tablespoons.
  • Use some paper towels or a kitchen towel to gently pat-dry the top layer of the eggplants. This will absorb the water drops and some of the salt. Place a few slices of eggplant in each pan in one layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until golden brown and a bit shorter on the opposite side. Don’t worry if the pan gets a little dry. Only add extra oil if it feels like it might be burning. If more oil is needed, drizzle just a little bit around the sides or in between the eggplants and swirl around. 
  • Remove cooked eggplant to a bowl or another pan and set aside. Continue until all eggplant slices are done. 
  • In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.

Baking The Eggplant Tomato & Cheese

  • Time to assemble it all. Smear a quarter of the sauce on the base of a sheet pan or baking dish. Top with a layer of eggplant, I use about half of it, and some slices may overlap. 
  • Spread the eggplant with half of the remaining sauce. Layer the remaining slices on top and finish with the sauce. 
  • Finish with grated Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top. I ended up using 1.5 cups of Mozzarella thinking that it will need it but once it was baked all the cheese was melted, I think 1 cup of each is plenty unless you like it very cheesy. 
  • Pop in the oven, middle shelf, for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and golden brown all over. 
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. It’s even better after it sits for half an hour or so. It can absolutely be served barely warm or cold. 


Notes

For a dairy-free version, repeat all the steps but instead of topping the bake with cheese, bake the eggplant without it on top for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with crushed almonds and bake for 5-7 minutes or until the nuts are toasted. Sprinkle with fresh basil. This would be suitable for Paleo, Whole30, and vegan diets. Alternatively, use a plant-based cheese alternative.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 293
  • Sugar: 11.7 g
  • Sodium: 1260.1 mg
  • Fat: 20.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 20.9 g
  • Fiber: 9.7 g
  • Protein: 10.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 8.7 mg

Keywords: Eggplant Dishes, Italian Eggplant Recipes, Baked Eggplant Recipes, Eggplant Parmesan, Eggplant Parmigiana, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sheet Pan Recipes, Low-Carb


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