If I were to go back and teach cooking classes, the first thing I would teach would be making a simple, tasty, fragrant, and vegetable-packed marinara sauce. It contains 3 of my all time favorite ingredients: olive oil, onions, and garlic. It is utterly simple, forgiving and tastes worlds better than bottled marinara sauces. Did I mention that it pairs up very nicely with baked eggplant parmesan?
Baked eggplant parmesan is crispy and flavorful, and is a no-fuss way to make a delicious meal. You could use summer squash and zucchini along with eggplant. When making, prep the eggplant first. Use the time the eggplant is baking to cook the pasta and marinara sauce.
Yield: 4 servings
2 medium eggplants, washed and cut into 1/2" circles
salt for sprinkling on eggplant rounds
2 cups whole-wheat bread crumbs, or Panko breadcrumbs (you could also use a few days old bread)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 T shredded parmesan cheese (or romano)
2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 1 egg white)
cooking spray or olive oil to grease pan
- Put eggplant rounds on a large plate and sprinkle the tops with salt to draw the water out of the eggplant. This will help dry out the eggplant and help it to stay crisp when baked. After 10 minutes, blot the eggplant with a paper towel, and flip over and repeat on next side.
- Preheat oven to 400 F and grease a jelly-roll pan with either cooking spray or a little oil.
- Combine breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and pepper, red chili powder and parmesan cheese in a medium size mixing bowl.
- Combine eggs in a separate mixing bowl.
- For breading the eggplant, dip each eggplant round in the egg mixture and then dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture ensuring that both sides are covered. Place the rounds on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 30-45 minutes at 400 F or until the eggplant looks crisp and nicely browned. Use the baking time to make the marinara sauce and cook the pasta.
2-3 T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 medium to small bell pepper chopped
1-2 T Italian seasoning or any combination of mixed herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil)
salt and pepper to taste
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T water
splash red wine (optional)
- In a large pan (with a lid) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the garlic. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant add in the onions and saute 5 minutes.
- Add in bell pepper and continue to saute for 3 minutes. At this point, put the pasta water on to heat. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Add in herbs, salt, crushed tomatoes and water. Continue to cook over medium heat until the sauce gets bubbly. Cover with a lid and stir every 2-3 minutes, for about 10 minutes. Stir in red wine and adjust for seasoning, topping off with fresh pepper. Sauce should be slightly thick and chunky.
- When pasta is ready, reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta. Rinse under cold water to stop it from cooking. You can put the pasta back in the original cooking pot and toss with 1 tsp olive oil to prevent it from sticking. The pasta water can be used to prevent sticking and to warm it back up before serving (just add in as much water as you need).