Eggplant Parmesan is one of the most popular vegetarian Italian dishes and this recipe is straight from Italy. You can use ripe eggplant without seeds and salt them for 1 hour to remove the bitterness.
• 3 pounds large eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
• 2 tablespoons coarse salt, or as needed
• 5 cups vegetable oil for frying
• 2 tablespoons flour for dredging
For Tomato Sauce
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 onion, finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, halved
• 3 (15 ounce) cans tomato puree
• 8 leaves fresh basil leaves, halved
• salt to taste
• 1 1/2 (16 ounce) packages fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
• 2 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• Place a single layer of eggplant slices in a colander sitting on a plate and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Cover with a second layer and sprinkle with salt.
• Repeat with remaining eggplant. Place a plate on top and add a weight to put pressure on the eggplant slices. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
• Rinse eggplant slices under running cold water to wash off all the salt. Pat dry on all sides with paper towels.
• Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge eggplant slices in flour on both sides and add to the hot oil, working in batches. Deep fry eggplant until golden, for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
• Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; cook garlic and onion until soft and translucent, for about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, 4 basil leaves, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until sauce starts to thicken, for about 20 minutes. Remove sauce from heat. Discard garlic and stir in remaining 4 leaves basil.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread a layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a baking dish. Cover with a single layer of eggplant slices. Top with more sauce, mozzarella slices, and Parmesan cheese. Continue making layers, a total of 3 to 5, finishing with tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
• Bake in the preheated oven until heated through and bubbling, for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.