Recipe | Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Eggplant is not a very popular vegetable. In fact, a lot of people tell me they don’t like it–usually this is followed by, “it’s so slimy!” But it’s time to give eggplant another chance! Because it doesn’t have to be slimy or mushy or bitter or any of those other things people attribute to eggplant.

I’m pretty sure a lot of the eggplant haterism stems from bad Eggplant Parmesan. And as a vegetarian, I’ve definitely had my share of this–it’s often one of the few meatless entrees at Italian restaurants. It’s fried, but the breading is soggy. Once you get past the soggy breading, you’re greeted by a slimy interior. And then to make up for the general terribleness of the dish, they add cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. No wonder people think they don’t like eggplant.

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stack
However! When you roast eggplant, the texture is completely different. As long as you don’t add too much oil to it, it won’t get soggy. And if you use fresh eggplant (like from your local farmers market!), you’re not going to get any bitterness either, so there’s no need to salt it.

I had originally planned on making this Eggplant Parmesan Stacks recipe with tomato sauce, but when I saw these tomatoes at the farmers market, I changed my mind. Okay, so maybe I made this decision based solely on looks (pretty tomatoes!), but it worked out well in the end. They give the Eggplant Parmesan Stacks that lighter, fresher flavor I was looking for.

Heirloom Tomatoes
The eggplant and tomato slices are roasted before stacking them; this helps keep the eggplant from getting mushy from the tomatoes’ juices. To make this dish lighter than traditional Eggplant Parmesan, I added only a quarter cup of cheese to each stack. And rather than breading the eggplant slices, I topped them with a little bit of panko–by putting it on top, it stays crunchy and delicious.

So see, this is nothing like the bad Eggplant Parmesan that makes people hate eggplant. No sliminess! No soggy breading! And a sensible amount of cheese. Now who’s ready to give eggplant another try?

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4

Serving Size: 1 stack

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

A lighter, healthier version of Eggplant Parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 12 rounds (about 1/4-inch thick)
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into 8 rounds (about 1/4-inch thick)
  • 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped basil leaves
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • 1/4 c. panko

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place eggplant and tomato slices onto baking sheets. Brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until eggplant is golden brown, rotating sheets halfway through cooking time.
  3. Remove sheets from oven (but don't turn it off!) and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Combine panko, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Take 4 eggplant rounds and top each one with a tomato slice. Top with a tablespoon of cheese and a half tablespoon of basil and repeat with another eggplant round, tomato slice, cheese, and basil. Place an eggplant round on top of this, then top each stack with 2 tablespoons of cheese and 1 tablespoon of panko.
  5. Return eggplant parmesan stacks to oven and heat 5-7 minutes, or until cheese has melted and panko is golden brown.

Notes

When you roast eggplant, the skin can get a little bit tough. Either peel the eggplant entirely or peel alternating one-inch sections around the eggplant (as seen in the photos).

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Kiersten Frase

About Kiersten

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies. She loves cooking, trashy reality shows, and Hello Kitty. Kiersten also blogs about blogging at kierstenfrase.com.   Read more from Kiersten →

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve had some bad eggplant in my day. I think of it like the IPA of the veggie world, it’s either amazing or awful. But that’s all the more reason to make it at home and get it right! These look really amazing.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Yeah, when eggplant is bad, it is SO SO bad. I won’t order Eggplant Parm at restaurants anymore because it’s inedible about half the time and I don’t want to take that chance.

  2. Mary Beth Elderton says

    I’ve always disliked eggplant for exactly the reasons you mentioned, but this looks delicious. We love roasted broccoli and other veggies with a bit of olive oil, seasoning, and Parmesan, so I think we might like this, too. Okay…willing to give eggplant another try next grocery trip :)

  3. says

    This looks so good!
    Funny thing, I just made grilled eggplant parmesan for dinner tonight. I love grilled eggplant (and roasted too, of course). If it’s a hot night out, I’d strongly suggest grilling them.
    Those tomatoes look beautiful. No wonder you didn’t want to turn them to sauce.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  4. says

    I disliked eggplant until my mid-20s for different reasons — because some restaurants would undercook it, making the eggplant firm and spongy. When I gave eggplant another go and roasted it, I was in love. I’ve never found eggplant slimy and I love eggplant parmesan! I like the idea of only topping with panko. And I love Chinese eggplant dishes.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      If you use too much oil, eggplant can get REALLY slimy. I’ve made that mistake before. I really like Chinese and Thai eggplant dishes too–when we were in Savannah, we had the BEST tempura eggplant (although it was supposedly Vietnamese, not Japanese!) and I need to figure out how to do that.

  5. says

    Love these! I made a caprese version last summer with eggplant, tomato, mozzarella, and basil, but I think I’ll have to try the parmesan version this summer, it looks great!

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Okay, I’m going to have to do it as caprese next time. Eggplant is about the only thing doing well in my garden, so I’m going to need a LOT of eggplant recipes soon…

  6. says

    Mmmmm…. I love eggplant any which way. Actually, I LOVE it fried and greasy but, of course, I almost never eat it that way. I have 4 huge plants in my garden all to myself because the veggie haters in my family particularly loathe eggplant!

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Eggplant is the only thing doing well in my garden right now! I think next summer, I’m just going to do eggplant in all 3 beds. Nothing but eggplant!

  7. says

    It’s funny that you just posted this, because I had that exact experience on my Zambia trip! One of the nights, the hotel had an Italian themed buffet, so I got some eggplant parmesan (since, like you said, it was one of the few vegetarian options). But it was dripping in oil, and the ratio of greasy cheese to actual eggplant was more like 3 to 1. I wish I could have tried your version instead!

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Yuck! I hate that. The best Eggplant Parmesan is the kind where the breading is still crispy, but I think that must be hard to pull off in a restaurant setting (not to mention a buffet!) because it’s so often soggy and greasy. There has to be a reason for it!

  8. says

    I know it’s not a popular vegetable but I just love it. I love what you did with this version, we’re going to have to try this soon!!

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Ha! I’m so picky about certain foods, so I definitely get having an aversion to something. But I swear eggplant isn’t bad when you make it right!

  9. says

    Those are some beautiful tomatoes you got at the farmer’s market. Here in the PNW the only tomatoes at the farmer’s market are still greenhouse tomatoes– there’s a vendor that grows local greenhouse tomatoes for everyone who can’t wait until the end of summer for field-grown ones. I have a bad eggplant story, too, well, more than one, unfortunately. This time I’ll just mention the bad eggplant parmesan that was one of the very few vegetarian entrees available at my college’s cafeteria. This was back in the day before colleges offered more diverse food choices. I was committed to eating vegetarian so I had that not-very-good eggplant many times. You are right about the reasons for slimy or bitter eggplant and the ways to avoid it. My husband and I will eat it again now, but we’re still working on convincing the next generation.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      My tomatoes got a bit of a late start, so I’ve been able to harvest exactly one and the rest are all green on the vine–I’m so thankful for our local farmers market! I always know that no matter how badly my little garden does, I’ll be able to get things there. :)

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s had those bad eggplant parm experiences–when I wrote this post, I wondered if maybe I was just being my usual picky self! But that bloated, greasy eggplant parmesan that’s a staple at so many restaurants and buffets really is an abomination. I really believe that when people dislike a vegetable, a lot of times it comes down to how it’s prepared, not the taste of the vegetable itself.

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