Healthier Eggplant Parmagiana

healthier eggplant parmagiana

I consider eggplant parmagiana to be the ultimate comfort food. I love the creamy richness of a pan-fried-then-oven-baked eggplant, combined with a crispy, oily crumb coat. Add red sauce, cheese, and a heaping plate of pasta and I’m in heaven.

However, I made some big changes to what I eat recently, which I mentioned in this post. I read Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, caught up on some basic nutritional science, and did my own research on how the food we eat affects our wellbeing. I’ve always been a vegetarian, but I finally gave up dairy, cut out hyper-processed starches and sugars, and started eating more whole fruits and veggies.

healthier eggplant parmagiana

Between the cheesy topping and the heap of pasta underneath, eggplant parmagiana is everything I aim not to eat now.

I remade this dish to fit some new guidelines. What’s left is eggplant, thickly sliced, creamy as ever, coated in almond meal “breadcrumbs” and cooked to a crisp in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Layered with tomato sauce, baked to creamy perfection. And served, as one of my favorite Italian restaurants does it, wonderfully pasta-less.

[I don’t subscribe to the paleo lifestyle, but if you do, this recipe is also for you, fitting every paleo guideline I can think of.]

healthier eggplant parmagiana

Layer this up with whatever tomato sauce you like best. I just toss a bunch of tomatoes and some garlic, onion, and herbs in a big pot and let it simmer for a while. There’s also a recipe for a easy, simple tomato sauce at the bottom of this post, if you’re not sure where to start.

It should also be noted that the less olive oil you use to cook the eggplant, the less evenly the almond “breadcrumbs” will toast up. I like to use a few generous pours for good flavor and texture, but if you opt to use less, the dish will still be delicious (just slightly dryer).

healthier eggplant parmagiana

 

Healthier Eggplant Parmagiana
makes 4 servings as a side, or 2 as a main
Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup almond meal (more as needed)
Italian seasoning, to taste
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
canola oil or other neutral oil for pan frying
2 cups tomato sauce (your favorite, or the Simple Tomato Sauce recipe below)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Salt very lightly and set aside.
  2. Pour the beaten egg white onto a plate, or into a shallow container, wide enough to fit a slice of eggplant.
  3. Pour the almond meal onto another plate. Mix in a few generous shake of Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper.
  4. Place a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  5. Pat a slice of eggplant dry with a paper towel. Dip both sides in the beaten egg, then into the almond meal mixture, shaking off excess. Place in pan and repeat with remaining eggplant slices, stopping when pan is full.
  6. After 2-3 minutes, as the bottom of the eggplant slices begins to brown, flip them over. Cook 2-3 minutes on the second side, then remove to a plate or dish.
  7. Repeat the dredging and cooking process with the rest of the eggplant, until all of it has been cooked through.
  8. Fill the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish with a layer of tomato sauce. Arrange eggplant slices in the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top, leaving some edges of the eggplant uncovered to crisp.
  9. Bake at 400 F for 1 hour, or until eggplant is fork-tender.
Simple Tomato Sauce
makes ~3 cups tomato sauce
Ingredients
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small white onion, diced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
olive oil
salt
red pepper flakes
5-6 leaves basil (optional)
Instructions
  1. Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add white onion and a pinch of salt, stirring constantly until the onion turns translucent.
  3. Add the entire can of crushed tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes in the pan with a spoon. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Allow to simmer covered over low heat for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour. Check the sauce periodically and add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin as needed.
  4. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat. Tear basil leaves and add to the warm sauce. Let rest a few minutes before serving.
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