Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
- 2 large eggplants, stemmed and sliced into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) slices
- Extravirgin Olive Oil
- 1 quart (1 liter) of thick tomato sauce (commercial bottled is fine)
- Dried oregano
- 3/4 pound (300 g) fresh ricotta, well drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few teaspoons of freshly grated Parmigiano
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).
Take a 9 by 14-inch (about 22 by 35 cm) oven pan and drizzle some olive oil over the bottom, and then a little tomato sauce. Lay down a layer of sliced eggplant -- about a third of your eggplant, cutting pieces if need be to fill in holes and make an even layer -- and drizzle more tomato over it. Dab some of the ricotta over the slices, dust lightly with oregano, season with some basil (if you're using it), pepper, and a touch of salt, and put down a second layer of eggplant, trimming pieces as necessary to make an even layer.
Drizzle with more tomato -- don't stint -- oregano, basil, and dab with more ricotta. Season again to taste, and put down a final layer of eggplant. Season with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper, dab the remaining ricotta, and sprinkle most if not all of the remaining tomato over everything -- the sauce and the eggplant should be at the same level. Dust the surface with a little freshly grated Parmigiano, add another light drizzle of olive oil, and bake for about an hour and a half.
A few observations:
In traditional eggplant Parmesan the slices of eggplant are fried and then the dish is assembled. Since they are not fried here, the dish needs to cook for longer in the oven. On the positive side, it is much lighter.
The traditional recipe calls for Mozzarella. I prefer to use well drained ricotta in making the light version, because it gives off less moisture as it cooks. I used Parmigiano because I had Parmigiano in the house. You could also use grated Pecorino Romano, and if you wanted a cheesier dish add some Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano to the first two layers as well.
Last thing: As I said, fresh basil is optional. If you have it, it adds a very nice touch. Likewise, if you want you could add some kick with the sparing addition of hot pepper flakes.