Eggplant Parmesan Casserole for Two

A few weeks ago on a random Thursday night, Shane headed into Boston after work to meet a few friends and see the Dropkick Murphys play at Fenway Park. I like them too, but I’m not a big enough fan to tackle the traffic and crowds that would be involved. Instead, I stayed home and watched the NFL season kickoff with the Packers-Saints game. I probably caught a bit of the Red Sox game too, though I may have changed the channel pretty quickly since this September’s meltdown has almost been too brutal to watch. I also took advantage of the fact that I would be eating dinner by myself to try this eggplant parmesan casserole recipe I’d had my eye on for quite a while. While I generally like casseroles because they make enough food to feed us for days, I love this one for the very opposite reason. It yields a tiny casserole that only feeds two people. As nice as it is to have leftovers sometimes, Shane won’t touch eggplant so a full size casserole would be far too much food for just me. Even I have my limits when it comes to leftovers.

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole for Two

This recipe does deviate a bit from other eggplant parmesan recipes I’ve seen – maybe that’s where the “casserole” part comes in? Generally, the eggplant is breaded and then either fried or baked before being layered between tomato sauce and plenty of delicious melted cheese. Here, the eggplant is simply oven-roasted until tender and golden. Into the baking dish it goes with a simple homemade tomato sauce and a cheesy mixture of ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella. Skipping the breading definitely cuts back on the prep work for the dish, and since it’s topped with a panko mixture, you still get a little bit of crispy texture in each bite. It was delicious that first night and when I reheated the leftovers for lunch the following day, I enjoyed them just as much. I didn’t discover I liked eggplant until just a few years ago, and boy do I feel like I missed out for a lot of years. I hope to plant it in our little garden next year so I can eat it even more often!

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011

{The recipe calls for an 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 baking dish – I didn’t have one and just substituted the next closest thing I had.}

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb), sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
3 teaspoons minced garlic, divided (about 3 cloves)
1 1/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
4 oz (about 1/2 cup) ricotta cheese
1 oz (about 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
4 oz (about 1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Spread the eggplant in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.

In a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil along with 2 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Don’t walk away – you want the garlic fragrant but not burnt (and it happens quickly). Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until thickened (it should measure about 1 cup), 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat under the pan, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Stir together the ricotta, 6 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the egg yolk, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Layer the casserole: spread 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 baking dish (see note above), followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1/4 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat that process once more.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil that you’ve sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon garlic, 2 tablespoons Parmesan and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.