If you want to pamper your eggplant, prepare it like this: sliced and roasted until golden brown, then baked to creamy perfection layered between loads of sweet red pepper and tomato sauce.
- 2 medium to large eggplant (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
- 7 T olive oil, divided
- Kosher or sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 C finely chopped yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped small (not minced)
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped small
- 1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes; drained with juice reserved, chopped (see notes)
- 10 large basil leaves, rolled lengthwise and thinly sliced into a chiffonade (plus more for serving)
- 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (or more!)
- 1 C fresh bread crumbs, without crust
- 1/4 C finely grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 425 (F) and place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Slice eggplant 1/2 inch thick and distribute in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with olive oil (about 2 1/2 tablespoons total). Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pans between top and bottom oven racks. Roast another 10 to 15 minutes until golden in places. Season with salt and pepper while hot and set aside to cool on baking sheet. Reduce oven to 325 and move top rack just above middle position.
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until very soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes an 1/4 cup of reserved juice and bring to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes until everything is softened, sweet, and most of the excess liquid is reduced. Off heat, stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Oil or spray a 10 to 12 cup baking dish. Make a layer on the bottom of one third of the eggplant slices, then cover with a third of the tomato sauce, followed by half the goat cheese. Repeat twice, ending with a layer of tomato sauce. Cover and bake 45 minutes.
- As gratin bakes, combine bread crumbs, parmesan, a little pepper, and a tablespoon of oil and stir to combine thoroughly. After baking time is up, increase oven to 375. Uncover gratin, top with the breadcrumb mixture, and bake another 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing and serving with more fresh basil, parmesan, and black pepper. Keeps very well, and is maybe even better as leftovers!
I purchased my eggplant in June (in the U.S.) and did not salt the slices, without any flavor issues. I rarely salt eggplant slices in my cooking, regardless of the time of year, and I’ve never noticed a bitter flavor. If you anticipate an issue, you can salt the slices on both sides, then lay them on towels or place them in a strainer for up to an hour, releasing excess moisture and any bitterness with it.
When working with canned whole tomatoes, I squeeze them gently before chopping to remove seeds and juices inside each tomato.
Make the recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free bread for the breadcrumbs. Make it vegan by omitting both types of cheese. Recipe is vegetarian as written.
Adapted from The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
- Prep Time: 35 mins
- Cook Time: 90 mins
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Italian