Marcella Hazan’s Eggplant Parmesan Is the Only Recipe You Need

updated Feb 18, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Marcella Hazan's Eggplant Parmesan

This classic recipe for eggplant Parmesan comes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.


Prep45 minutes

Cook1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes

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Credit: Sheela Prakash

A few months ago I was tasked with finding the very best eggplant Parmesan recipe out there. Each of the contenders were solid in their own right and the winner was indeed epic, but you see, I went into the recipe showdown with a tiny problem: I already had a favorite eggplant Parm recipe.

I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s version from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking for years, and I left it out of the showdown to prevent my own bias. But after testing all four recipes and still coming back to this one, it only seemed fair to share it with all of you. It’s the silkiest, most perfect eggplant Parmesan — and really, the only recipe you need.

A Timeless Eggplant Parmesan Without All the Bells and Whistles

Marcella Hazan is the queen of Italian cooking (have you tried her tomato sauce?) and a cook I deeply admire. In fact, when I moved to Italy years ago, her cookbook is the only one I carried with me. Through her words and recipes, she was a friend to me in the kitchen in my tiny, drafty apartment, and she continues to be to this day. So years ago, when I was on the hunt for a really good eggplant Parmesan recipe, I knew to start with her.

Her recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is eggplant Parmesan in its most pure, Italian form. While Italian-American versions feature breaded eggplant and modern takes contain various types of cheese, Marcella’s is a lesson in restraint. It features paper-thin eggplant slices that are lightly coated in flour and fried, then layered with a bright homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, torn basil leaves, and grated Parmesan cheese.

This recipe is a reminder that letting a few ingredients shine is often more impressive than smothering them with more ingredients. Keep it simple and you get everything you want out of this comforting Italian dish: meltingly tender eggplant, milky cheese pulls, and vibrant sauce. You don’t even need a knife to eat it — that’s how decadent and silky the whole affair is.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

If You Make This Eggplant Parmesan, a Few Tips

Marcella’s recipe really doesn’t need to be fiddled with, but it’s worth it to keep these tips in mind.

  1. Feel free to use 1 (28-ounce) can of whole peeled tomatoes to streamline things. The recipe calls for 2 cups drained and diced canned tomatoes, but I’ve always used 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes because I never want to leave a bit of the can unused. I open the can, stick a pair of kitchen shears inside, and cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, then use the entire can. This leaves me with about 3 cups rather than 2 cups but once it’s reduced, I find it really is the perfect amount of sauce for the dish.
  2. Don’t hesitate to use 1 pound fresh mozzarella rather than 3/4 pound. I hope Marcella will excuse me, but again, for the sake of not having small amounts of ingredients left over, I use a full pound of fresh mozzarella. I use 2 (8-ounce) balls or 1 (16-ounce) ball, since that’s usually how it’s sold. And while I’d love to take her suggestion of reaching for buffalo-milk mozzarella, it’s quite expensive, so I use regular cow-milk mozzarella.
  3. Use an 8×8-inch or 2-quart baking dish. The recipe calls for an 11×7-inch baking dish, which is the equivalent to an 8×8-inch or other 2-quart baking dish. When using an 8×8-inch dish, I get three layers of eggplant and two layers of cheese.
  4. If you have extra sauce, finish the casserole with both sauce and cheese. Since I make a bit more sauce than the recipe calls for, I like to save some for spreading on the top layer before sprinkling on the last of the Parmesan cheese. While not necessary, I love the look of a tomato sauce-topped eggplant Parmesan and it protects the top from drying out.

Marcella Hazan's Eggplant Parmesan

This classic recipe for eggplant Parmesan comes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 3 pounds


  • Salt

  • Vegetable oil

  • Flour spread on a plate

  • 2 cups

    canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, well drained and chopped coarse

  • 1 tablespoon

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3/4 pound

    fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo-milk mozzarella

  • 8 to 10

    fresh basil leaves

  • An oven-to-table baking dish, approximately 11 inches by 7 inches or its equivalent

  • Butter for smearing and dotting the dish

  • 1/2 cup

    freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Cut the green, spiky top off the eggplant and peel it. Cut lengthwise into slices about 3/8-inch thick. Stand one layer of slices upright against the inside of a pasta colander and sprinkle with salt. Stand another layer of slices against it, sprinkle with salt, and repeat the procedure until you have salted all the eggplant you are working with. Place a deep dish under the colander to collect the drippings and let the eggplant steep under salt for 30 minutes or more. Before cooking, pat each slice thoroughly dry with paper towels.

  2. Choose a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1 1/2 inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to high. When you have dried the eggplant thoroughly with paper towels, dredge the slices in the flour, coating them on both sides. Do only a few slices at a time at the moment you are ready to fry them, otherwise the flour coating will become soggy. After coating with flour, fry the eggplant, by slipping as many slices into the pan as will fit loosely without overlapping. Cook to a golden brown color on one side, then turn them and do the other side. Do not turn them more than once. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels. Repeat the procedure until all the eggplant is done. If you find the oil becoming too hot, reduce the heat slightly, but do not add more oil to the pan.

  3. Put the tomatoes and olive oil in another skillet, turn the heat on to medium high, add salt, stir, and cook the tomato down until it is reduced by half.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  5. Cut the mozzarella into the thinnest possible slices. Wash the basil, and tear each leaf into two or more pieces.

  6. Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter. Put in enough fried eggplant slices to line the bottom of the dish in a single layer, spread some of the cooked tomato over them, cover with a layer of mozzarella, sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan, distribute a few pieces of basil over it, and top with another layer of fried eggplant. Repeat the procedure, ending with a layer of eggplant on top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven.

  7. Occasionally eggplant Parmesan throws off more liquid as it bakes than you want in the pan. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered eggplant with the back of a spoon, and draw off any excess liquid you may find. Cook for another 15 minutes, and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.

Recipe Notes

Ahead-of-time note: Eggplant Parmesan tastes best shortly after it has been made, but if you must, you can complete it from several hours to 2 or 3 days in advance. Refrigerate under plastic wrap when cool. Warm it up on the top-most rack of a preheated 400°F oven.

Excerpted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: A Cookbook by Marcella Hazan. Copyright © 1992 by Marcella Hazan. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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