How to Make a Better Eggplant Parmesan

Food52 contributor Jenny Steinhauer is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.

Today: Classic Eggplant Parmesan gets a fancy new topping.

Usually I ferret out good weeknight recipes by my lonesome here, but My Mother's Eggplant Parmigiana came to me via my colleague Paul, who was raving about this interesting twist on a classic, one that is kid friendly to boot.

The secret surprise here of course is the walnuts, which have been coming up in a few Italian recipes of late, and snap of some red pepper flakes, a spice that would get me through life on a desert island, if I had the new Jhumpa Lahiri novel and the next season of Orange is the New Black as well.

You can even make this nutty topping before you leave work, and then put the whole thing together while asking people about play practice and the best method for avoiding the dress code police at school.

I, too, refuse to seed tomatoes.

My Mother's Eggplant Parmigiana by Giulia Melucci

Serves 4 to 6

For the sauce:

1 pound plum tomatoes (about 5)
1 tablespoon medium garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup basil leaves

For the eggplant:

1 large, firm, shiny eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 teaspoon for walnut topping
2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup grated pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
3/4 cups mozzarella, shredded

1. For the sauce: Peel the tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, remove the stem ends, halve vertically and sccop out as many seeds as you can with a small spoon (or don't, I didn't bother with the seeds), puree in a food processor. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and red pepper flakes, heat until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes, wine, sugar, salt and basil leaves. Cook until thickened, 20-25 minutes.

2. For the eggplant: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Slice the eggplant into rounds 1/2" thick, lay the eggplant onto a cooking sheet. Sprinkle salt and brush olive oil onto each side. Cook each side for 15 minutes turning once. Both sides should be nicely browned.

3. When both the sauce and the eggplant are ready prepare a pan that can accommodate the eggplant by brushing the bottom and sides with olive oil, then add a layer of sauce. Cover the sauce with one layer of eggplant then spoon some sauce over it, sprinkle one half of the mozzarella and one half of the pecorino, then add another layer of eggplant followed by the sauce and both cheeses. This recipe should only make two layers, if you come up with more, keep going until you are ready to add the topping.

4. Mix the breadcrumbs and walnuts in a small bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle the topping over the final layer of eggplant and bake until browned and bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. Allow the finished dish to rest for 10 -15 minutes before serving.

Save and print the full recipe on Food52.

Photo by James Ransom

This article originally appeared on Eggplant Parmigiana