A healthier version of an Italian comfort classic, your entire family will love this flavor-packed Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Crispy Panko Topping.
With a last name like Della Croce, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m married to an Italian man. Lucky for me, I also married into a giant Italian family full of incredible cooks including my Aunt Dolly who we visit every time we visit Boston.
Inevitably, she and her son Rich (pictured above with all the cousins) spend hours in the kitchen cooking a 4-course spread for us. It starts with bruschetta made with tomatoes from her garden and ends with pastries from the local Italian bakery. Just when you think you can’t take another bite, you find room for just one more.
When my friends at BelGioioso asked me to create a recipe showcasing their Sliced Mild Provolone, I decided to create a dish that would remind my husband of home. Between Aunt Dolly’s house and the inevitable visit to Boston’s North End, it is hard to compete in the Italian food department but I was up for the challenge.
One of my philosophies when it comes to healthy eating is to make my calories count. By nature, cheese is higher in calorie which is why I only eat and cook with high quality, high flavor cheeses. Unlike typical provolone cheeses, (made here in America) is aged for more than 60 days before hitting your refrigerator. As a result, it has a really deep, sharp and almost nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the broiled eggplant and homemade tomato sauce in this healthy baked eggplant parm.
As you can tell, Jacob thought it was finger-licking good. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many servings he ate. Let’s just say this little bambino loves Italian food as much as his daddy.
Ooey, gooey, melty and cheesy, the 2-pound packs of pre-sliced BelGioioso Mild Provolone can be found at your nearest Costco as well as your local grocery store. I love having extra cheese on hand to make the boys a quick quesadilla or for an added boost of protein and calcium in my Ham and Cheese Baked Egg Cups.
PS: This freezes fabulously and is the ideal meal to gift a new mom or someone who could use a little taste of the good life.
Your fork is waiting.
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 large eggplants (sliced 1/2 thick)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
- black pepper
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (grated)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (divided)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes – divided (divided)
- 32 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 14 ounce can tomato sauce (low sodium)
- ½ cup red wine
- 6 slices BelGioioso Sliced Mild Provolone (or equivelent )
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 ounces BelGioioso American Grana® parmesan (grated)
- Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer amongst two foil-lined baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.
- Brush the top of each eggplant round with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake eggplant until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove eggplant from the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees.
- While eggplant is baking, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add diced onion to the pan along with a small pinch of kosher salt. Stirring frequently, cook onions until they become translucent, 4-5 minutes.
- Grate garlic directly over pan and add 1/4 teaspoon of the chili flakes. Stir in tomato sauce, whole peeled tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of the oregano. Use scissors or a potato masher to gently break down the whole peeled tomatoes. Add red wine then bring to a boil before reducing heat to low on simmer. Check for seasoning and add salt or pepper to taste; set aside.
- To begin assembling the eggplant parm, ladle 1 cup of the tomato sauce and spread across the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Place one layer of eggplant on top of the sauce, overlapping each slice a little.
- Pour another cup or so of the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant and continue until you’ve used all of the eggplant, ending with sauce on top.
- Top the last layer of sauce with 6 slices BelGioioso Sliced Mild Provolone overlapping one another to cover the entire pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together panko bread crumbs, BelGioioso American Grana® and the remaining spices: 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Sprinkle the panko/cheese mixture in an even layer on top of the provolone.
- Bake at 350 degrees until dish is gently bubbling and the cheese/panko topping is golden brown: 35-40 minutes.
- Let pan rest 5-10 minutes before slicing to allow ingredients to settle. Serve over pasta or with crusty bread.