Healthier Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Parmesan is a popular Italian dish in which slices of eggplant are typically dipped in egg, rolled in bread crumbs and fried in oil, before being combined with tomato sauce, spices, and cheeses, then baked. In this recipe for Healthier Eggplant Parmesan, slices of eggplant are dipped in milk, then rolled in a mixture of bread crumbs and wheat germ, combined with tomato sauce and cheeses, then baked. The wheat germ has a somewhat nutty taste which enhances the flavor of the bread crumbs.
Eggplant has a spongy texture which is absorbent and when fried eggplant soaks up a lot of oil. When eggplant slices are baked instead of fried, Eggplant Parmesan becomes lighter as well as lower in fat.
In many recipes, eggplant fulfils the role of being a complementary ingredient that balances the surrounding flavors of the more pronounced ingredients. Eggplant holds an esteemed place in the cuisines of Italy, Greece, Turkey and France.
Some Eggplant Facts
Eggplant is called “aubergine” in France and in British English. Eggplants are the edible fruit of the Nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, sweet potatoes and potatoes. It has long been prized for its deeply purple, glossy beauty and its unique taste and texture. Eggplants are available in markets year round but are best from August through October when they are “in season.” Eggplant is available in several colors and sizes in addition to the traditional purple variety. Leading growers of eggplant include Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan.
Eggplant offers some good nutrition, too. One cup of eggplant contains only 35 calories and they have a low glycemic index. Phytonutrients, many of which have anti-oxidant activity, are found in eggplant. Also found in eggplant are dietary fiber, vitamin B-1, vitamin B-6, copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K.
Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color vivid. Eggplant should be free of discoloration, scars and bruises, which usually indicate the flesh beneath has become damaged or possibly decayed.
To test for ripeness, gently press the skin with your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, if an indentation remains, it is not. Eggplants are very perishable and should be stored with care. Don’t cut eggplant until you’re ready to use it. Store in the refrigerator. Wash eggplant before using and cut off the ends. Eggplant can be eaten with or without the skin. If the skin is tough, as is sometimes the case with a large eggplant or one of the white variety, peel the skin before cutting the eggplant.
The Recipe for Healthier Eggplant Parmesan
- 1 large eggplant
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 cups fine bread crumbs or wheat germ or a combination of the two
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 48 oz. bottled Spaghetti Sauce (or use your own Italian Tomato Sauce)
- 1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
- 16 oz. Ricotta cheese (whole or part-skim milk)
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two baking pans or use pan spray.
- Slice eggplant into 1/2" thick slices. Place the milk in a shallow bowl. Combine bread crumbs and wheat germ (if using), basil and Italian seasoning. Dip each eggplant slice into the milk, then roll in the crumbs. Spread the coated slices of eggplant on the baking pans and bake until tender, about 20-30 minutes.
- Use pan spray or oil a 9" x 13" pan. Ladle some spaghetti or tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan.
- Add a layer of eggplant slices and cover with more sauce. Sprinkle some mozzarella over the sauce, then repeat the with a layer of eggplant slices and tomato sauce.
- In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese and egg. Spread mixture on top of tomato sauce. Sprinkle on remaining mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
- Fresh basil may be added to the topping mixture and/or the crumb mixture for additional flavor.
I hope you enjoy this healthier version of Eggplant Parmesan! Make some soon for your family!
Remember to Savor the Flavor!
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