Eggplant parmesan stacks – traditional and a smoked mozzarella variation – yum!
I love eggplant parmesan and have enjoyed some amazing iterations since living in Italy. The eggplant itself is just such a spectacular savory fruit – true story, it’s a fruit!
Grill, bake, roast, use in dips, curries, pasta – the list goes on and on. And, the health benefits of this purple palate-pleaser are great as it is rich in antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber.
Starting Eggplant Parmesan Stacks: Prep Basic Marinara Sauce
Denise of Castello di Sinio took me through making the most delish basic marinara sauce to use for our eggplant parmesan stacks.
Highlights from my lesson in how to make eggplant parmesan stack with Denise:
- All over the interwebs you see eggplant recipes that insist you salt in advance to draw out moisture and bitterness. But, Denise says that is unnecessary – in all her years in the kitchen, she has never seen any difference in the pre-salting process. At least not enough to warrant the extra time, work, and salt!
- Creating eggplant parmesan stacks versus the traditional casserole method is easier and more convenient to serve. And, if you are into mealtime aesthetics, they just look better. Also, individual servings rule!
- Denise keeps her senza bread crumbs and the eggplant is not fried – so fresh and so clean!
- When you put the baking paper down on your baking sheet, do two layers for quicker, easier cleaning.
Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Traditional Eggplant Parmesan
- 1/2 batch basic marinara sauce
- 1 container ricotta cheese (Get the smoothest, best brand you find.)
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch garlic powder
- 1 tsp fresh minced herbs of oregano or Marjoram
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 eggplant
- 2 tbs olive oil
Variation: Smoked mozzarella, fresh basil
- 1/2 package smoked mozzarella (grate very coarsley)
- fresh whole basil leaves
- ricotta (optional, see traditional parm recipe for instruction)
- Pre-heat oven to 375° F / 190° C.
- Slice your eggplant crosswise into an equal number of slices, about 1-inch thick.
- Rub the slices with the olive oil, front and back, making sure to get to the edges.
- Salt and pepper both sides.
- Place on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes; if you like your eggplant softer, do 20 minutes. The slices should shrink a bit and show a light golden color. A knife tip goes in easily - the eggplant should hold up well and not be too toothsome. Remember, it doesn't bake in the oven for a long time and only goes back into the oven to fully heat the ricotta and melt the cheese.
Assembling and baking
- Place larger eggplant slices on the baking sheet, spread a layer of ricotta, and a mozzarella slice or two.
- Put a scant tbs of marinara sauce on each slice with ricotta and mozzarella.
- Place the smaller slices on top of the dressed larger slice.
- Put a dollop of ricotta if you have any left. Place a smaller mozzarella slice over the ricotta. Top with a good spoonful of marinara sauce. Save a little sauce for serving.
- Bake for approximately 10 minutes to heat through the ricotta and melt the cheese. But don’t let the cheese ooze all over.
- Remove from the oven, top with a bit more sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve immediately.
Variation: Smoked mozzarella, fresh basil
- Use coarsely grated smoked mozzarella, fresh whole basil leaves, and ricotta. Proceed as above, but substitute the grated smoked mozzarella for the ricotta and fresh mozzarella.
- Place two or three large whole basil leaves between eggplant slices. Top with smoked mozzarella and a little sauce. Serve immediately.
Eggplant Parmesan Wine Pairing
My favorite part! Whatcha drinking with that!?
For your eggplant parmesan wine pairing, consider the important pairing ingredients: fresh cheese, marinara sauce. Those beg for acidic and juicy wines, so go-tos are going to be barbera, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, nebbiolo, primitivo, and zinfandel.
I selected a young Barbera d’Asti. Denise went for a Langhe Nebbiolo. Both have depth of flavor and good acidity – optimum for this recipe. If you are going for a nebbiolo, I suggest a younger one that is steel-aged to really bring out the freshness and the fruits.
Scarpa Casa Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016
Scarpa is a historic producer in the Monferrato making some of the area’s most beautiful expressions of barbera. They do three Barbera d’Asti wines: the younger, fresher drinking Casa Scarpa, the more fatty, rich I Bricchi, and the elegant, complex La Bogliona (pro tip: if you happen upon a 2007 La Bogliona, snap that baby up; the winemaker says it may be the best ever of that vintage).
Most people don’t think of barbera as an ageable wine but in fact, the aging potential is great because of its high acidity. Scarpa holds their barbera wines for longer than most everyone with even the youthful Casa Scarpa spending one year in steel (no wood) and six months in bottle before release. The grapes come from the producer’s youngest vines coupled with the steel vinification and aging, the wine is bright, fresh, and an incredible value. The red fruits, zesty acidity, and refined fruits were a perfect match for the eggplant parmesan stacks.
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