Eggplant Parmesan Baked Pasta

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So I know I just posted an eggplant recipe last week, but I’ve really been craving eggplant parmesan for months now and the eggplants at my favorite market have been looking extra fresh lately. Eggplant parm is one of those meals I can’t say no to. While eggplant by itself is pretty good, I absolutely love breaded eggplant. The exterior is crispy and crunchy, while the interior is moist and practically melts in your mouth. My favorite calzone in the world consists of breaded eggplant, artichokes, pesto, and tomatoes. Healthy? not so much. But delicious? oh yes.

This dish is like a fusion of eggplant parm and baked ziti. Layers of cooked pasta are covered in marinara sauce and topped off with crispy breaded eggplant and mozzerella cheese. I kept the amount of cheese light and opted for part skim mozzerella over whole milk, and used whole grain pasta to make this dish a bit healthier. I did choose to fry the eggplant because I wanted it to be extra crispy, but feel free to bake it if you’re looking to cut further calories.

This recipe does involve a bit of planning ahead, so make sure to leave yourself about 2 hours from start to finish. Prior to breading and frying the eggplant, it must be sliced and laid out to dry out a bit or else the moisture from the eggplant will make the breadcrumbs soggy. After cooking the pasta and frying the eggplant, the dish is cooked for about 20-25 minutes. It takes a bit of effort, but it will be well worth it 🙂

Eggplant Parmesan Baked Pasta
makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 6 oz. whole grain penne
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzerella or parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Carefully slice your eggplant into 1/4″ thick slices. Lay them out on a paper towel in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit like this for 40-45 minutes.
  2. Cook your pasta to al dente – since we’re baking it, we don’t want to get too mushy in the oven.
  3. For the next few steps, it’s best to prepare an assembly line of 3 bowls: In one bowl goes your flour. In the next bowl, your beaten egg, and in the 3rd bowl, the panko and spices. (It would also be a good idea to preheat your oven at this point, to 350ºF.)
  4. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. One by one, lightly dredge your slices of eggplant in flour. Transfer the eggplant to the egg to coat, shaking off any excess egg, and then into the panko. Make sure each slice is thoroughly covered in panko. Carefully place your breaded eggplant into the heated oil in the frying pan.
  5. Fry eggplant for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove from oil, place onto a clean paper towel to soak up the excess oil and let cool.
  6. Lightly grease an 8×8″ baking dish. On the bottom, place half of your pasta. Pour on half of the marinara sauce, and then layer on half the breaded eggplant and cheese. Repeat this process once more and top off with extra cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melty and golden-brown.
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Lay out your slices of eggplant out on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let them dry out for 40-45 minutes. During this time you may want to cook your pasta.

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After 45 minutes, set up your breading station. Place flour, beaten egg, and panko all in separate bowls.

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First, lightly dredge your eggplant in flour. Then coat it in the egg, and then cover with breadcrumbs.

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Heat 3 Tbsp canola oil in a large frying pan and fry up your eggplant slices until golden-brown, about 5 minutes per side. (I did this in two batches.)

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This is what the eggplant will look like when it’s done frying.

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In a greased 8×8″ baking dish, layer cooked pasta and half of your tomato sauce.

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Place breaded eggplant and cheese on top of pasta layer, and then repeat. Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes.

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Dish is done when cheese is melty and golden-brown.

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Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and enjoy 🙂

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