Tomato Basil Sauce & Eggplant Parmesan

It's All Delicious

The other day I looked at my basil plant and thought, "OH NO! I better make something fast!"  I'm a pesto traditionalist and not into the variations that have cropped up through the years. I like the basic, centuries old Genoa recipe - basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano, Pecorino and olive oil.  But I didn't have any pine nuts. So no pesto - this time.
I did however have canned whole tomatoes from Michael Anthony's market, garlic and, uhm, tons of basil.

No recipe needed - here's what I did:
I got out my machete, hacked off half the basil leaves from my voracious basil plant. I pulled out a large saucepan and began crushing those tomatoes with my hands, which caused a huge mess all over me and the kitchen counter. I chucked in the basil leaves - don't ask me how many, just lots! Next, I added a little white wine, a lot of olive oil, and let the sauce simmer all day. The result was a really fresh, simple tasting sauce that was perfect, even without any pine nuts. And guess what, that basil plant is right back to where it was pre-hacking. I swear the thing is on steroids!
So after hacking my way through the basil and then covering the kitchen and myself with tomatoes, I needed to do something with all that sauce.
The eggplant looked good at the grocery store, until I started thinking about all the dipping, breading and frying, and about the way the eggplant slices soak up all that oil. I decided that was way too heavy for my fresh sauce and hips.

Serves 4
2 Eggplant - peeled and sliced in º inch pieces
7 oz grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino is tasty too!)
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
8 cups of fresh tomato sauce - maybe a little more or less depending on the size of your dish
Olive oil

I decided to stick with the eggplant, but to make a lighter version by brushing the slices with a little olive oil, then roasting them until they turned a lovely golden color. Don't get me wrong, oh how I love the traditional egging, breading and frying, but this method, for one thing, was quicker, easier, and didn't give my kitchen that fried food smell.

Two things to note: peel the eggplants so you don't have to deal with the tough bitter skins and cut the slices fairly thick (about º inch), that way they won't shrivel and disintegrate into nothing. I served this as a pasta substitute with grilled veal chops. It was a hit all the way around.

Preheat oven to 450∞F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place eggplant slices on baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Roast for 7-10 minutes until golden. Flip them over, brush the other side with olive oil and roast for an additional 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them; you want the slices to be tender, but not collapsed. 

     Spread a little tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Top with eggplant slices, sprinkle some grated Parmesan, then top with more tomato sauce, etc., etc.Top the last layer with mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly around the edges. Remove foil and bake for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the cheese melts. Let sit about 5 minutes before tucking in!

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