09.28.11_Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Our friends Laura and Meghan have had us over for dinner a few times and after seeing all of the delicious things I had made in August, Laura really wanted us to have her over for dinner. We finally found a day that worked and I decided to make this Eggplant Parmesan Casserole that was on my list of things to try. Whenever I have people over for dinner I always try to make something that I can do most, if not all, of the work beforehand so once the guests arrive, I'm not in the kitchen the entire time. This casserole seemed perfect because I could get everything ready, cover it and leave it in the fridge until it was time to put it in the oven.

After reading the recipe I decided to one and a half the recipe since they said it made a very small amount and I did not want to run out of food. The recipe took a little while just because you had to roast the eggplant for 35-45 minutes first, let it cool, and then make the casserole before baking it for about 50 minutes. This was another time when I wish I owned a mandolin. My slices of eggplants were uneven to say the least but they still turned out ok. If you do not have parchment paper I would recommend getting some. I used foil that I covered with oil but the eggplant still stuck some. Eggplant always gets so flimsy once it's roasted anyway flipping it halfway through was a little frustrating so if you can get the parchment paper it will probably make your life a lot easier.

While the eggplant was roasting I got everything else ready. I mixed the panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oil and S&P and set aside for later to top the casserole. I also mixed together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, and S&P. I ended up using a little more cheese (shock) then the recipe called for because in my opinion you can never have enough cheese. I then made the sauce by browning some garlic, adding a can of crushed tomatoes, and tossing in some fresh basil at the very end (easy homemade sauce ever).

Once the eggplant was roasted and cooled, I started layering the casserole. For some reason in my mind I was imaging this dish would be like a noodle-less lasagna with layers of eggplants instead of noodles. This was definitely the wrong way to thing about it. I could not spread out the ricotta mixture like you would with a lasagna because the eggplant is not sturdy enough. I ended up just putting dollops of the mixture around the baking dish and assumed once it was in the oven the cheese was going to melt and spread out anyway. After creating several layers, I put the casserole into the oven for 25 minutes. The recipe called for covering the casserole with foil sprayed with non-stick spray for this part. I'm not sure why spraying the foil was necessary. I guess if you filled your baking dish to the brim and the foil was touching the casserole but mine was not. After the 25 minutes, I sprinkled the panko-parmesan mixture on top, put it back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes until it was golden brown.

I sprinkled a little bit of fresh basil on top for color and we were ready to eat. Laura brought a salad with pears and a balsamic vinaigrette from Whole Foods and I toasted up some garlic bread while the casserole was resting. The casserole was delicious and both Phillip and Laura really enjoyed it. Like the original recipe says, it does not make an enormous amount of food like casseroles typically do so if you are trying to feed more than two I would definitely increase the original recipe. Thanks to Tracey's Culinary Adventures for the great recipe!

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