Baked Healthier Eggplant Parmesan Stacks are a fresher and lighter way to enjoy an Italian classic! Easy to make and can be made ahead!
The inspiration behind this recipe:
As the first eggplant is ripening in our garden, I'm already anticipating one of my favorite dishes: Eggplant Parmesan!
Eggplant Parmesan is a classic Italian-style dish. The usual way to prepare it is to salt the eggplant first and let it drain in a colander, pat dry, then coat with a breadcrumb and cheese mixture and fry it.
Layered with tons of cheese and sauced can make for a very heavy dish. Here's a lighter and fresher way to enjoy classic Eggplant Parmesan!
Tips for making Baked Healthier Eggplant Parmesan Stacks:
- Eggplant has a pleasantly bitter flavor. Salting the eggplant is meant to draw out that "bitterness" that some people find objectionable. I actually like that flavor so I don't salt and drain eggplant for this dish. Salt it and drain it if you like. However, not heavily salting eggplant makes it immediately more healthful.
- Don't peel the eggplant! That gorgeous purple skin contains important antioxidants.
- The texture of eggplant is sponge-like so it soaks up a ton of oil when fried. Baking the eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan will help reduce the fat significantly. I spray a non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray, set the breaded eggplant on the baking sheet, then give each slice a shot of cooking spray. You can also line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.
- I realize some people find cooking sprays objectionable because of the chemicals. However, there are cooking sprays available now that are made with grapeseed oil, avocado oil or coconut oil and are all pretty pure.
- I like my eggplant slices to be approximately ½-inch thick and got 14 slices from a medium eggplant. If that's the case, simply make two of the eggplant towers four layers high which will make heartier appetites happy!
- While the eggplant slices are still warm from the oven, stack it and layer with fresh mozzarella then return to the oven for the cheese to melt. Cover loosely so the eggplant slices don't brown more. And yes, with that ooey-gooey cheese, the Eggplant Parmesan stacks may slide around a bit. Mwwwahhhh!
- Different brands of crushed tomatoes vary in thickness. Some can be quite thick and almost paste-like. I used Cento which is fairly thick so just rinsed out the can with a little water and added it to the pan.
Spoon the tasty tomato sauce over the top and serve over the stacks for a fresher, lighter spin on classic Eggplant Parmesan!
Love eggplant? Here are more delicious eggplant recipes!
- Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole (Imam Bayildi)
- Italian Summer Vegetable Casserole
- Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Galette
- Air Fryer Eggplant Fries with Garlic Basil Aioli
- Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
- Cooking spray
- 1 medium eggplant - approximately 1 pound, cut into 12-14 ½-inch slices
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- 3 large eggs - beaten
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup panko
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes - cored, seeded and chopped (approximately 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - or to taste
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil - approximately 1 large sprig, plus more for garnish if desired
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- Oil or cooking spray - for baking dish
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella - cut into 8-10 thin slices
- Fresh basil sprigs
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese - for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prepare a non-stick baking sheet by spraying it with cooking spray. Alternately, line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place all-purpose flour on a plate and season with salt and black pepper. Place eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Combine Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and panko in another bowl.
- Dredge eggplant slices in flour. Dip in beaten egg then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. Flip eggplant slices and bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until both sides are golden and eggplant is tender.
- While eggplant is baking, prepare sauce. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomato, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5-7 minutes or until tomato is soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes.
- Stir in fresh basil and keep warm.
- Prepare a baking dish with oil or cooking spray.
- Set four of the largest eggplant rounds in the baking dish. Place a piece of cheese on each of the rounds, followed by another eggplant round, another piece of cheese, eggplant round, ending with cheese on the top. (If you end up with four layers on two of the stacks, that's okay. A heartier appetite will appreciate it!)
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese has melted.
- Top with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil sprigs and serve.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
This dish is delicious and so easy to make. The eggplant was very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside as if I had fried it. Love baking it this way! The sauce was light and flavorful. Beautiful presentation. Company worthy! Thanks Carol.
Hi, Linda, Thanks so very much and so happy you enjoyed!! Baking eggplant is so much easier than frying and it doesn't absorb all that oil. You could also do it in an air fryer. Thanks again!
Can I make this day before Mother's Day and reheat?
Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen says
The stacking really ups the elegance factor here. These are absolutely gorgeous, Carol!
This looks like such an elegant meal that would be easy enough to pull off on a weeknight. Can't wait to try this out!
The photos are so beautiful! The recipe sounds delicious also - I love the crispy coating on the eggplant
Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago says
These look delicious! Perfect for a light dinner during the week. Pinned to my must make list!!
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says
This is a definite must make!! We love eggplant and it does have a tendency to absorb the olive oil I baste it with. I've already got eggplant on my grocery list.
I am definitely trying this! My husband and I love eggplant but I hardly ever make it because the kids don't (hoping they will eventually! I sneak it in sometimes.) This looks delicious!
Hi, Michelle! I gave this recipe to a friend a while back and she makes it for her family all the time. Her husband didn't like eggplant, but he enjoys it this way. The kids may go for it; the eggplant is tender inside but the coating is nice and crunchy which kids love!