I Can’t Stop Making Ina Garten’s Rule-Breaking Eggplant Parm
My family has never been much into cooking. When I was a kid, my parents and siblings were happiest eating “cheese pasta,” which is basically shredded cheese sprinkled over elbow noodles. So it wasn’t until I had a kitchen of my own that I realized what a joy cooking can be — and that there was a whole world of dinners beyond a bowl of noodles.
Over the years, I’ve taught myself a lot, often turning to cookbooks for inspiration. My ever-expanding collection has allowed me to experiment with different cuisines, impress my friends with elaborate dinners, and, perhaps most importantly, get me out of cooking ruts. Recently, when I was feeling cash-strapped and uninspired, I turned to Ina Garten’s Cook Like A Pro, which is packed with impressive yet accessible recipes.
Although I learned a lot by simply reading all the tips scattered throughout the pages of the book, by far the biggest takeaway was the drool-worthy recipe for Roasted Eggplant Parmesan. It’s got an ooey-gooey center and a super-crispy top, and it might just be the best thing to come out of my kitchen.
A Few Smart Swaps Make Ina’s Eggplant Parm the Best I’ve Ever Tasted
I’m not gonna lie: This recipe takes a bit of time. The good news is that it’s super fun to make — and requires very little skill.
First, the eggplant. Instead of deep-frying it, Ina roasts the seasoned eggplant slices in the oven, which makes for an easier and (mildly) healthier casserole. It also means you get to skip the splatter and greasy cleanup of frying, which is always a win in my book. You’ll then layer the tender slices with fresh basil, marinara sauce, and three types of cheese: mozzarella, goat cheese, and Parmesan. (Bonus tip from Ina: Slice the fresh mozzarella with unflavored dental floss to keep the beautiful ball of cheese from crumbling under a knife.)
Ina’s second smart swap? Homemade breadcrumbs, which you’ll moisten with olive oil and mix with garlic, fresh basil, and salt before sprinkling over the dish. Not only are homemade breadcrumbs a smart way to use up a loaf of stale bread, but they also absorb less moisture than store-bought crumbs, which means they stay extra-crispy on top of the casserole. That being said, if you’re in a pinch for time, store-bought will work just fine.
I was so happy to pull this recipe out the last time I went to visit my parents. My mom —who has upgraded from cheesy pasta but now eats a diet that consists of little more than kale salad and green beans — really dug in (she even brought some for work the next day!). And my dad, who has always refused to eat anything with eggplant, took a big helping as soon as he saw that it looked like lasagna and ended up clearing his entire plate. There’s nothing more rewarding than making something satisfying for the people I love — especially when they’re as picky as my family.