This Easy Eggplant Parmesan recipe is a classic Italian dish (Melanzane alla Parmigiana) that combines the richness of Parmesan and mozzarella cheese with the hearty flavors of eggplant and marinara sauce. It takes time to prep — about 30 minutes — but it’s so worth it. With just a few simple steps you will have the ultimate Italian comfort food to enjoy with family and friends.
Personally, I love to make this on a lazy Sunday. The house smells amazing, and it’s a great way to start the week. The leftovers make for easy meal prepped lunches and dinner! Serve this vegetarian favorite with pasta or a side salad and some crusty bread. A fall and winter staple! And don’t worry, we’ll tell you how to avoid bitter eggplant.
If you love Eggplant as much as we do, you have to try our Cheesy Eggplant Rollatini and Eggplant Caponata. For more classic Italian dishes, check out our Chicken Parmesan, Three Cheese Manicotti, and Homemade Marinara, which can be used in this recipe!
- Marinara Sauce: Serves as the base for the dish, providing a savory and slightly tangy element that complements the eggplant and cheese. You can make your own homemade marinara, or use store-bought sauce like Rao’s.
- Purple Eggplant: The star of the show, providing a hearty and slightly nutty flavor with a creamy texture when cooked. It serves as the main component of the dish.
- Kosher Salt: Seasons the eggplant and draws out excess moisture, ensuring it cooks properly and isn’t overly watery. Salting eggplant can also make it less bitter.
- For the eggplant dredging, we’ll use a combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, oregano, breadcrumbs, black pepper, and parmesan cheese.
- Neutral Oil: Such as grapeseed oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: Creates a gooey layer in between the eggplant slices.
- Fresh Basil Leaves: Finishes the dish with a vibrant herbal flavor.
Note: We do not recommend using panko breadcrumbs, as they give the final dish a different texture. Also, use marinara sauce, not tomato sauce.
How To Make Cheesy Eggplant Parmesan
- Make the marinara sauce. For store-bought, I recommend Rao’s.
- Prepare the eggplant. Slice 2-3 medium eggplant into thin rounds. Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt and let them sit for about 15 minutes to remove excess moisture. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Next, you’ll set up the dredging station, with one bowl for eggs, another bowl for the flour, and a third bowl for breadcrumbs and cheese.
- Heat enough neutral oil in a large pan to submerge about half the thickness of the eggplant slices. Heat it until it’s around 375°F.
- Dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour mixture, then the whisked eggs, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to press the bread crumbs onto the eggplant to get a good coating.
- Cook the eggplant. Fry the breaded eggplant slices in batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown. Drain on a wire rack, sprinkle lightly with salt, then allow the eggplant to cool for 30 minutes.
- To assemble: Spoon some marinara sauce in a 9×13 baking dish. Add a layer of fried eggplant slices, then spoon additional sauce on top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces. Repeat this layering process until you’ve used all the eggplant slices, sauce, Parmesan, and basil. Save all of the mozzarella for the top layer. Let the assembled dish rest for about 30 minutes.
- Bake the eggplant parmesan. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Cover the dish with foil (avoid touching the cheese if possible) and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Rest, then serve. Allow the eggplant to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Top with additional grated Parmesan and fresh basil leaves!
Eggplant Parmesan, also known as Eggplant Parmigiana, is an Italian dish made with thinly sliced eggplant, layered with marinara sauce, cheese, and fresh basil, then baked until it’s golden and cheesy.
Any type of eggplant will work, but Italian or globe eggplant is most common.
I did not peel the eggplant. The skin of the eggplant will provide a bit more texture to the dish (and a beautiful color!).
You can use a high-quality store-bought marinara sauce like Rao’s. Making your own marinara sauce is an option if you prefer a homemade touch and have time.
Fresh basil leaves provide a vibrant, aromatic flavor to the dish. While dried basil can be used as a substitute, it won’t provide the same fresh and fragrant taste as fresh basil. If you must use dried basil, use it sparingly, as it can be quite potent.
- When selecting eggplant, look for ones that are firm, smooth, and free from blemishes. Smaller eggplants tend to have fewer seeds and can be less bitter.
- To ensure even cooking, use a mandoline or a very sharp knife to slice the eggplant into uniform ¼-inch thick rounds.
- The eggplant must cool before assembling in a casserole dish.
- Don’t skip the recommended resting time for the assembled dish. Allowing the Eggplant Parmesan to rest for 30 minutes helps the layers set, making it easier to slice and serve.
Make-Ahead, Leftovers, & Storage
- To make-ahead: You can prepare this eggplant recipe in advance by assembling it and letting it rest in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.
- Leftovers and storage: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be kept for 2-3 days. When reheating, it’s best to use an oven or toaster oven to maintain its crispiness.
- To freeze: Eggplant Parmesan can be frozen for up to 3 months. To do so, cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or use an airtight container. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before reheating.
How To Serve
Traditionally, eggplant parmesan should be served with pasta! It would also be great served with garlic bread and a fresh green salad topped with Basil Vinaigrette. For the easiest 5-minute salad ever, try our Arugula Salad — we make it at least once a week.
The leftovers also make a great sandwich! Use a crusty Italian baguette and top with eggplant and marinara. Heat it in the oven or a toaster oven until everything is warm and crispy.
You are going to absolutely love this eggplant parmesan recipe. It may seem like a lot of steps, but trust me when I say it is easy and so worth it!
If you make this easy Eggplant Parmesan recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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Cheesy Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
- 4 cups (32oz) marinara sauce – homemade or, if using store-bought, we recommend Rao’s
- 2-2½ lbs purple eggplant, 2-3 large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, cut into even ¼-inch thick slices (the thinner, the better; we recommend using a mandoline for precision)
- Kosher salt, divided
- 6 large eggs
- 1½ cup (180g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 3 cups breadcrumbs
- 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Neutral oil, about 3 cups
- 1½ fresh mozzarella cheese, hand ripped into small pieces, about 4 cups
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves
- Make marinara sauce if using homemade.
- Sweat the eggplant. Place sliced eggplant on a wire rack, then sprinkle evenly with a few teaspoons of Kosher salt on both sides. Allow the eggplant to sweat for about 10-15 minutes, then flip and sweat for another 10-15 minutes. Use a paper towel to gently wipe any excess moisture off of the eggplant slices.
- Set up the dredging station. For this you’ll need 3 shallow bowls. In one bowl, whisk together 6 large eggs with ½ tsp Kosher salt. In the second bowl, combine 1½ cups flour and 1 Tbsp dried oregano. In the last bowl, combine 3 cups breadcrumbs, ½ cup grated Parmesan, 1 tsp Kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper.
- Heat the oil. In a large heavy bottom skillet, add enough neutral oil to come up about ½-inch. Heat over medium-high heat until a temperature of ~375F is reached. Meanwhile, prepare the eggplant.
- Dredge the eggplant. Dip eggplant slices in flour mixture first, carefully shaking off any excess, then place in the bowl with the eggs. Coat evenly on all sides, allowing excess to drip off before placing in the breadcrumb mixture. Press down firmly to ensure even coating on both sides. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
- Cook the eggplant. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, cook eggplant slices in hot oil for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Once done, carefully transfer to the wire rack, then sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Repeat until all eggplant is fried, adding more oil in between batches if needed (and waiting for the new oil to come up to temperature. Cold oil = greasy eggplant slices). Allow the eggplant slices to cool for 30 minutes before moving on.
- Assemble the eggplant parmesan. Spoon about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Add a single layer of eggplant slices, then spoon another 1 cup of sauce on top, spreading evenly over the eggplant. Sprinkle with ⅓ of the remaining grated Parmesan cheese and a few fresh basil leaves, ripped into small pieces. Repeat with another layer of fried eggplant slices, sauce, Parmesan, and basil, then add half of the hand ripped mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups). Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, Parmesan, and basil, creating 2 more layers, but reserving all remaining mozzarella cheese for the top layer. Once assembled, allow the eggplant parm to rest for 30 minutes.
- Bake the eggplant. When ready, preheat an oven to 375F. Cover tightly with foil, being sure not to touch the top layer of cheese if possible. If this is unavoidable, spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking. Bake for 40 minutes, covered, then remove the foil, return the casserole to the oven, and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
- Rest, then serve. Allow the eggplant to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. This seems unnecessary, but the layers will slide around if they don’t have a chance to rest and cool. Enjoy with additional grated Parmesan and fresh basil leaves!
- The eggplant must cool before assembling in a casserole dish.
- The baked eggplant parmesan needs to rest for 30 minutes before slicing. If you skip this step, the eggplant will be too loose and the layers will slide around.
- Can be made up to 3 days in advance. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely overnight in a fridge before reheating.
Photography by: Megan McKeehan