Listen, I hear you. You are bored. Bored of your normal dinner ideas, but you need something that can be thrown together after the school pickup line and on the table in under an hour. I got you. It's this Baked Eggplant. And even if you think you don't love Eggplant -- just trust me on this one.
What You Need:
8 oz Bag Shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella
8 oz Bag Shredded Italian Five Cheese Blend (or just more Mozzarella)
16 oz Whole Milk Ricotta
Marinara (Store-bought or Homemade)
2 28oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
2 large Sweet Onions chopped
3 Tbs dried Parsley
3 Tbs dried Basil
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
3 Bay Leaves
1 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Black Pepper
2 Tbs Sugar
Pinch of Baking Soda
1 Cup Water
Eggplant is such a beautiful and underutilized ingredient. Some people are turned off by its texture and part of that is due to all the water eggplant holds. Let’s face it, no one wants to eat a cooked sponge. So the very first step to this recipe is to prep a large cookie sheet with a layer of foil and several cooling racks. Next, slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and lay them on the cooling racks in a single layer. Liberally salt the one side of the eggplant and then set yourself a 30 minute timer. The salt will pull some of the water out of the eggplant and give you that silky smooth texture once it is baked.
While your timer is going you can take a quick nap, have a glass of wine, OR make my Homemade Marinara. (You should make it—btw.)
Homemade Marinara: Put a large pot on medium heat and start sautéing your chopped onions in olive oil. After a few minutes, add all of your spices and give it a good stir. Add in the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and water. Don’t forget that pinch of Baking Soda. The baking soda helps remove the aluminum taste that canned tomatoes sometimes have when cooked in a hurry. Bring your marinara to a boil and then reduce to medium low and let it cook for 30 minutes to an hour (if you have the time.)
Assembly time! Your Eggplant at this point should look all sweaty. Take a paper towel and pat eggplant dry and then set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a cookie sheet and lay out small piles of mozzarella over the entire sheet. (This is the base layer to this eggplant tower we are building.)
Cook the mozzarella in the oven for 5 minutes or just until melted. Then on top of the melted mozzarella, layer the eggplant, tablespoon of marinara, a tablespoon of ricotta (on each slice), and finish with a healthy sprinkle of the Five Cheese Blend or more Mozzarella.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the Eggplant is fork tender and the cheeses are bubbling and beginning to brown. Finish with fresh basil and fresh cracked black pepper.
Serve with your favorite pasta and a bunch of that delicious marinara you just created. And give yourself a high-five for making a not boring weeknight dinner! Enjoy!