Make something special or dinner this week. Something you would order a restaurant. Something that isn’t really difficult, but will dazzle those gathered around your table.
Make this Eggplant Parmesan with Herb Ricotta and Zesty Spaghetti.
EGGPLANT PARMESAN WITH HERB RICOTTA & ZESTY SPAGHETTI
makes 4 hearty servings
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup of onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole-peeled San Marzano tomatoes,
crushed by hand
- 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/8 cup fresh basil, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package of noodles, cooked as directed on package
(spaghetti, thin, fettuccine, or whatever you like)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced chiffonade style
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning,
or dried Oregano
- 2-3 eggs beaten
- 2/3 cup flour, or more if needed
- Oil or frying, we used canola
- 2 pounds of eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inc slices
- 4 ounces of Parmesan, shaved into slices
First things first, we have to take some moisture out of our eggplant or it will be tough and chewy – nobody wants that! So wash, trim and slice your eggplant; place slices on doubled paper towels and salt & pepper the exposed side (I have found table salt works best); let sit for at least 30 minutes, and then turn and repeat on bottom side. Press into paper towels to absorb extra moisture or squeeze eggplant to release before breading. *Tip you can slice and set out in the morning, covered with more paper towels and use when you get home!
Herb Ricotta: You can make this at any time or even a day ahead.
In a medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients; mix until evenly combined. Keep refrigerated until ready for use.
Zesty Spaghetti: Let’s make some sauce, but first lets get our salty noodle water boiling – if you start it now you can keep it boiling and use it when you are ready – pasta takes no time to cook, but the water has to be ready first!
Now, heat medium saucepan over medium heat with oil, add onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more; add hand crushed tomatoes, vinegar, seasoning, and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook sauce for 25 to 30 minutes – keep warm for serving.
While your sauce is cooking and your pasta water is boiling: finish preparing eggplant and setup breading station. I like to use wide shallow bowls which make it easier to handle. I also use a cutting board to transfer my breaded un-cooked eggplant from prep area to skillet and then cover it with paper towels to use again once eggplant is fried. You can prep the eggplant ahead of time and freeze. I like to do mine while my sauce is cooking and I also use this time to heat my frying oil.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high, so it will be ready to begin frying once your eggplant is breaded.
In 3 wide-shallow bowls place the following: Bowl 1) flour, Bowl 2) beaten eggs, and Bowl 3) bread crumb mixture: panko, cornmeal, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
Take your ‘dehydrated’ eggplant and 1) dust it with flour; 2) dip it in egg; and 3) coat in bread crumb mixture. Place on sheet, until ready to fry. I start my noodles cooking while I fry my eggplant, so things will be done around the same time.
Fry breaded eggplant in batches that fill the skillet, but where the eggplant does not touch – this allows more even browning. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Transfer to paper towel covered tray, pat top lightly with paper towel and immediately top with slice of Parmesan cheese. The eggplant will still be warm enough to melt the cheese, but won’t be overly greasy.
Assemble & Enjoy:
Combine half of the zest spaghetti sauce with your prepared and drained noodles (I use 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water with this mix); plate swirled piles of noodles. Add a quenelle of the ricotta mixture. Then add two, or more, slices of eggplant Parmesan. Finally, top with some more of that lovely zesty spaghetti sauce and additional grated Parmesan or crushed red pepper, if desired. Serve with garlic bread or your favorite Italian side dish.
I went for a disassembled eggplant Parmesan casserole with this dish. The quenelles of ricotta may seem weird, but they offer a lovely balance to the dish and for those who don’t like much spice they offer a cool and creamy comfort. This dish was warm, hearty, and despite the extensive directions above… really pretty simple. It was worth every moment of effort and just as good if not better than ordering it at a restaurant.