OCI’s recipe for eggplant Parmesan

At the October Country Inn, one of our most requested recipes is for our eggplant parmesan.  The way we prepare the eggplant–baking instead of breading and frying –makes for a quite different result.  People who don’t like eggplant often love this dish.

This dish consists of two basic operations:  making the tomato sauce, and baking the eggplant.

If you’re going to go to the work to prepare homemade tomato sauce, you might as well make a bunch of it.  If you have a big enough pot, make a double batch.  Divide it up into quart containers, or freezer bags and It keeps for months when frozen.  Here’s the ingredients that you’ll need for a single batch:

  • 3 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 18 oz tomato paste
  • 4 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 lbs. 7 oz. whole, peeled roma tomatoes (#10 can)
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons kosher (or other gourmet) salt
  • Black pepper to taste, freshly ground

Over a large (about 8 inch diameter) wire strainer, placed in bowl large enough to hold it, take each of the whole roma tomatoes, hold it over the strainer, split it with a thumbnail and make an effort to remove the seeds by wiping them out with your fingers. Seeds impart a bit of a bitter taste to the sauce but don’t go crazy trying to get every last seed.  Place seeded tomatoes on a cutting board (helps keep the mess to a minimum if you place the cutting board inside a 12 inch by 18 inch shallow baking pan).  Repeat until all the tomatoes have been seeded.  Discard the seeds in the strainer and reserve the juice left in the bowl.  Chop up the pile of seeded tomatoes.

Sliced eggplant ready to bake

Sliced eggplant, spiced and ready to bake.

At this point, before beginning to cook the tomato sauce, prepare the eggplant so that it can be baking while the tomato sauce is cooking.  When we bake eggplant, we do a whole case at once.  It also freezes well.  It takes about 3 medium eggplant to make enough for a 7 x 11 pyrex casserole.

Take each whole eggplant and slice in quarters lengthwise just deep enough to penetrate the skin.  This keeps the baked skins from turning into unmanageable bits of chewy string.  Cut eggplant into crosswise slices about 3/8 inch thick and place on a baking parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper, then turn each slice over and repeat.

Baked eggplant

Sliced eggplant after it’s been baked.

Place eggplant in a preheated 450 degree oven and bake without turning about 45 minutes to an hour or until they turn a deep brown.

After eggplant is in the oven, switch back to making the tomato sauce.

In a pot large enough to hold everything, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onions and cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, for 7 or 8 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for another 2 minutes stirring constantly.  Add the spices (oregano, basil, bay leaves, sugar, salt, and pepper) and stir constantly for another minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, and tomato paste.  Mix everything together and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for an hour.

Baked eggplant in casserole

To combine the tomato sauce and eggplant, put a light layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 7 x 11 casserole.  Place a layer of baked eggplant on top of the tomato sauce in overlapping rows.  Press the eggplant down lightly with your hand to reduce the thickness and make it more uniform. Sprinkle a generous layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the eggplant layer, and about half that much shredded cheddar.  There’s some opportunity to experiment with different kinds of cheese if you like.  Let us know if

To combine the tomato sauce and eggplant, put a light layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 7 x 11 casserole.  Place a layer of baked eggplant on top of the tomato sauce in overlapping rows.  Press the eggplant down lightly with your hand to reduce the thickness and make it more uniform. Sprinkle a generous layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the eggplant layer, and about half that much shredded cheddar.  There’s some opportunity to experiment with different kinds of cheese if you like.  Let us know if you hit on a particularly delicious blend.Cheese layer over baked eggplant.

Again, press the cheese layer lightly to make a smoother, more uniform layer.  Add a liberal covering of tomato sauce over the cheese, but not so much as to make puddles.  Place a second layer of eggplant on top of the tomato sauce, then another layer of cheese and a final layer of tomato sauce.  Sprinkle liberally with fresh grated parmesean cheese and slide into a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Enjoy.