Dad’s Eggplant Parmesan

With layers of crispy fried eggplant, creamy ricotta and bright, savory meat sauce, Dad’s Eggplant Parmesan is a comforting meal that bursts with flavor. Serve this complex and elegant Italian dinner with a glass of wine on date night, or make it for your next family dinner.

A square of eggplant parmesan on a plate next to a napkin.

Cheesy Eggplant Parm With Homemade Meat Sauce

Eggplant parmesan is a rich and flavorful Italian classic that brings together so many different flavors and textures. Its complexity can make it seem intimidating, but this recipe breaks it down step by step to show you just how easy it really is. When you’re done, you’ll have a restaurant-quality meal that’s sure to impress everyone at the table.

The best eggplant parmesan recipes are loaded with cheese and sauce, without letting all that liquid soak into the breading. This recipe is a cut above the rest because it never leaves you with soggy eggplant. It has the perfect ratio of ingredients, and they all come together beautifully.

A pan of eggplant parmesan fresh out of the oven.

What You’ll Need

First, I’ll go over the ingredients for the fried eggplant, then move on to the fillings. You can find exact amounts for everything in the printable recipe card below.

For the Eggplant

  • Eggplant: Sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Eggs
  • Whole Milk: Or use cream.
  • Breadcrumbs: I use panko crumbs for an extra crispy texture.
  • Olive Oil

For the Meat Sauce

  • Olive Oil
  • Ground Beef
  • Onion: Diced.
  • Garlic: Chopped.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Crushed Tomatoes

For the Ricotta

  • Ricotta Cheese: Drained.
  • Egg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Parsley: Fresh leaves, chopped.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Grated.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Shredded.

Do I Have to Peel the Eggplant?

The skin on an eggplant is edible, but it can be tough sometimes, especially on larger eggplants. Smaller eggplants will have more tender skin which is also full of nutrients. If you’re using a bigger eggplant and the skin seems thick, go ahead and peel it. Otherwise, leaving the skin on can add some vitamins and minerals to your meal.

How to Make Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant parmesan is a lot easier to make than it looks. Follow these 8 steps to get an impressive layered dish after less than 30 minutes of active prep.

Make the Components

Prep Your Ingredients: Place the sliced eggplant on a board. Generously salt the rounds with kosher salt and let them sit for 15 minutes. After that time is up, wipe the excess salt and water off the eggplant with paper towels.

Make the Breading: Beat 4 of the eggs and the milk together in a shallow bowl. Add the breadcrumbs to another bowl. Dip a slice of eggplant into the eggs and let the excess drip off. Next, dip them into the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat the crumbs evenly on both sides. Repeat this step with the remaining slices.

Fry the Eggplant: Cover the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place a few breaded eggplant slices into the skillet in a single layer. Cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side, until they reach an even golden brown. Remove them to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat this step until all the eggplant is fried, adding more oil in between batches as needed.

Make the Meat Sauce: Add olive oil to a large skillet or dutch oven. Brown the ground beef in the oil until it’s almost cooked through, and drain any drippings from the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook them for another 5 minutes, or until the onion softens and the meat is fully cooked. Season the beef with the salt, pepper and oregano, then pour in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine everything and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let the covered skillet simmer for 30 minutes, stirring it often.

Make the Filling: While the sauce is cooking, add all the ingredients for the ricotta cheese layer into a small bowl and mix them together until they’re fully combined.

Bring Everything Together

Assemble: Before you start putting everything together, preheat the oven to 400°F. Add about 1 cup of your meat sauce to the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish, spreading it out to cover the bottom of the pan. Place 6 slices of fried eggplant on top of the sauce, followed by half of the ricotta mixture. Add another layer of sauce on top of the ricotta layer, then 6 more slices of eggplant followed by the other half of the ricotta mixture. For the last layer, add 6 more slices of eggplant and top them with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

Cover and Cook: Cover the pan with non-stick or greased foil. Cook it for 25 minutes, then remove the foil from the baking dish and cook it for another 15 minutes uncovered.

Serve: Remove the eggplant parmesan from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Once it’s cooled a bit, slice it into 8 even squares and serve them.

Can I Make It Ahead of Time?

Absolutely, which makes it perfect for an easy Sunday dinner or meal prep during the week! You can actually make the entire casserole ahead of time, cover it with foil and keep it in the refrigerator. Take the eggplant parmesan out about 30 minutes before you plan to bake it. Leave it at room temperature to take the chill off, and then follow the recipe instructions to cook it.

A closeup of the corner of an eggplant parmesan casserole.

Tips for Success

There are a few little tips and tricks to bringing all these elements together. Here’s how you can make sure your fried eggplant stays crispy, and your cheese to sauce to meat ratio comes out perfect.

  • Salt the Eggplant: The trick to crispiness is salting the eggplant before frying it. Let the salt sit on the slices for about 15 minutes. Because the salted eggplant lets out some of the moisture, there’s no excess water to soak into the breading.
  • Don’t Skimp On the Oil: Cover the entire bottom of the pan with oil as you fry the eggplant. The breaded slices are very thirsty, and they soak up a lot of oil as they cook. This can be prevented slightly by making sure the oil is very hot.
  • Thin the Sauce: If the sauce thickens too much, you can add some water at the end of the cooking time to thin it out.
  • Make It Your Way: Depending on how cheesy you like your eggplant parmesan to be, you can add as much cheese as you like. Just make sure you don’t add too little. Not only does the mozzarella cheese add a gooey, cheesy layer to the top of this casserole, but it also helps to keep the dish from drying out.
A slice of eggplant parmesan being lifted from the pan on a spatula.

Variation Ideas

Eggplant parmesan is a classic Italian dish, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own spin on it. Here are some ideas to help you shake things up.

  • Make It Vegetarian: If you want to make this dish vegetarian, simply leave out the ground beef. Start by cooking the onions and garlic and follow the recipe from there.
  • Switch Up the Meat: If you’re not a fan of beef, or if you’re trying to limit the red meat in your diet, feel free to switch it up. You can replace the ground beef with ground pork, ground turkey, or even ground Italian sausage.
  • Add More Veggies: A great way to get more veggies into your eggplant parmesan is to add them to the sauce as it cooks down. I like adding extra garlic, bell peppers and spinach, but you can add anything you want.

What Goes Well With Eggplant Parmesan?

With tons of veggies and lots of hearty protein, Dad’s eggplant parmesan is pretty much a meal by itself. Although, it’s really not complete without some Perfect Garlic Bread on the side. If you want some extra vitamins and minerals, try a Homemade Caesar Salad as an appetizer, or pair it with Grandma’s Stuffed Artichokes on the side.

Storage and Reheating

Although the eggplant layers won’t stay quite as crispy when you reheat this dish, it still tastes amazing. Just pack any leftovers away in an airtight container and stick them in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to dig in again, either pop the pan back in the oven until the edges start to bubble, or heat a single serving in the microwave.

Can I Freeze This?

Eggplant parmesan actually makes an excellent freezer meal. Feel free to freeze it either before or after it’s been baked. Either way, it should keep for up to 3 months. When you want to make it again, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, leave it out at room temperature for around 30 minutes, and then cook it like you normally would.

More Hearty Italian Dinner Ideas

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A square of eggplant parmesan on a plate next to a napkin.

Dad’s Eggplant Parmesan

  • Author: Dan
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

With layers of crispy fried eggplant, creamy ricotta and bright, savory meat sauce, Dad’s Eggplant Parmesan is a comforting meal that bursts with flavor. Serve this complex and elegant Italian dinner with a glass of wine on date night, or make it for your next family dinner.

Scale

Ingredients

For the Eggplant

  • 1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound, slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • Kosher salt for salting the eggplant
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk or cream
  • 23 cups panko or regular breadcrumbs (we use panko for an extra crispy texture)
  • Olive oil for frying

For the Meat Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (15 ounce can)
  • 1 can 28 ounce crushed tomatoes, pour into beef mixture
  • 1/41/2 cup water

For the Ricotta

  • 32 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

For Topping

  • 23 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Place the sliced eggplant on a board. Generously salt the eggplant with kosher salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Wipe the excess salt and water off the eggplant with paper towels.
  2. Beat the 4 eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Add the breadcrumbs to another bowl. Dip a slice of eggplant into the eggs, letting the excess drip off and then into the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat on both sides. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  3. Add oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. You’ll need to add more oil in between batches of frying the eggplant. Once the oil is hot, place a few breaded eggplant slices into the skillet in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat until all the eggplant is fried.
  4. To make the meat sauce, add olive oil to a large skillet or dutch oven. Brown the ground beef until almost cooked through and drain any drippings from the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until the onions has softened.
  5. Season the beef with the salt, pepper and oregano, then pour in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered, stirring often. If the sauce thickens too much you can add some water at the end of the cooking time to thin it out.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, add all the ingredients for the ricotta cheese layer into a small bowl and mix together.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  8. Start assembling the eggplant parmesan by adding about 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish, spreading out to cover the bottom. Place 6 slices of eggplant on top of the sauce, followed by half the ricotta mixture.
  9. Add another layer of sauce on top of the ricotta layer, then 6 more slices of eggplant followed by the other half of the ricotta mixture.
  10. The last layer is 6 more slices of eggplant topped with the remaining sauce. Top the eggplant parmesan with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
  11. Cover with non-stick foil, or spray aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover the baking dish. Cook for 25 minutes, covered, then remove the foil from the baking dish and cook another 15 minutes uncovered.
  12. Remove the eggplant parmesan from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Slice into squares and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • To Store: Keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • To Freeze: Freeze before or after baking for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • To Reheat: Leave out at room temperature for 30 minutes, then bake until the edges start to bubble OR heat a single serving in the microwave.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop / Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: eggplant recipes, fried eggplant, eggplant parmigiana

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3 Responses
  1. Lou

    I made this eggplant parmigiana With the meat it came out delicious will be doing it again for the holidays Thank you fire the Recipe thank dad

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