This is a lovely vegetarian recipe and a classic. If you are one who thinks you can’t have a complete meal without meat, you should try this. I promise that you will be filled and satisfied!
1-2 – Large eggplants
2 cups – Panko flakes
2 cups – Parmesan cheese, divided
1 – Egg, beaten (and mixed with a Tbsp. of water)
1/2 cup – Flour
1 cup – Onion, finely chopped
5 cloves – Garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. – Olive oil
1 cup – Red wine
1/4 cup – Red pepper, diced
4 cups – Stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup – Tomato paste
1 Tbsp. – Dried oregano
1 Tbsp. – Dried basil
1/2 Tbsp. – Dried thyme
1 large bunch – Fresh Basil, divided, cleaned, and broken
2 cups – Shredded mozzarella
Salt and black pepper
Begin by slicing the eggplant into 1 centimeter thick slices. Sprinkle with salt generously and place on wire racks for at least 30 minutes. This will cause the eggplant to release water and the bitterness.
While the eggplant is resting, make the marinara. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add olive oil then saute the onions and garlic, stirring often. Saute until the onions are clear (but not browned). Add the peppers and heat the pan to high heat until the oil starts to smoke slightly then add the wine. Allow the wine to cook down for several minutes or until you can no longer smell any alcohol. Add the stewed tomatoes, paste, and dried herbs. Stir well, lower heat, and simmer slowly, covered for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add half of the fresh basil. Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool (this can be made up to two days ahead of time).
Bread the eggplants by first dabbing dry with a paper towel. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add olive oil. Create an assembly line of 2 plates and a bowl. One plate with flour, the bowl with beaten egg, and the last plate with a mixture of the panko, 1 cup of Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Coat each slice of eggplant with flour, then egg, then the panko-cheese mixture.
Working in batches, sauté the breaded eggplant slices on both sides in the skillet until well toasted and lightly browned.
Using a large glass casserole pan, lay slices of sautéed eggplant in a layer, then a generous helping of sauce, topped by a mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella with bits of the fresh basil. Repeat until the pan is filled (I did two layers).
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.