Eggplant parm gets a pesto update in this new riff on the Italian classic from Rach's latest cookbook, Rachael Ray 50.
Adapted from Rachael Ray 50: Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savory Life by Rachael Ray. Copyright © 2019 by Rachael Ray. Used with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved.
One lucky studio audience member got to eat Rach's eggplant parm steaks AND she got a signed copy of Rach's new book.
- 2 eggplants (heavy and firm)
- 1 cup AP flour
- 4 eggs, beaten
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ to 2 cups breadcrumbs, or eyeball it
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano or marjoram
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (a handful)
- 2 scant teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes or ground red pepper, about ½ palmful
- About 1 teaspoon fennel pollen, optional
- About 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- About 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- About 1 ½ cups refined olive oil or safflower oil, for frying
- Shredded mozzarella or provolone, optional
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- One 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 cup basil, picked
- Salt, to taste
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Spaghetti, for serving (optional)
- Crusty bread, for serving (optional)
Make the eggplant: Trim the tops and bottoms of the eggplants and slice them into ⅓-½ inch planks lengthwise. Salt both sides of the planks or steaks. Drain them on dish towels for 30 minutes. Press out excess moisture.
Set up frying station in shallow dishes: flour; beaten eggs with salt and pepper; and breadcrumbs tossed with lemon zest and oregano or marjoram, parsley, red pepper flakes, fennel pollen if using, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and parm. Set the station near the stove. Heat a very wide, shallow 12 to 14 inch frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add a layer of frying oil about ¼ to ½ inch deep. Place wire rack-lined baking sheet next to the frying pan. Line the pan with foil, paper towels, or parchment paper.
Make the tomato sauce: Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter. When it foams, add the garlic and stir it for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Add ¼ cup basil and season the sauce with salt. Bring the sauce to a bubble, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes to break down the tomatoes. Once the red sauce base is cooked down, pulse the remaining ¾ cup basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, and cheese to finely chop them. Stream in the EVOO. Add the herb paste to the tomato sauce, stir for 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Cover the sauce to keep it warm.
Preheat the oven to 250℉.
Bread the eggplant planks three at a time in the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, pressing to set them. Cook the eggplants for 5 to 6 minutes per batch, until they are a deep golden color. Repeat until all of the eggplant is fried. If desired, you can keep the eggplant planks warm in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
To serve, top the eggplants with the sauce or set the eggplant planks in a smooth pool of sauce. Top with shredded cheese, if using cheese; you can broil the eggplant on the broiler pan and melt the cheese if you want the works. Toss extra sauce with a side of spaghetti cooked al dente or use it for mopping with crusty bread, if desired.