You know how there are some foods that, as a kid, are the grossest things ever, but as soon as you reach a certain age your tongue is all OMG what is this deliciousness?!?!? For a lot of people, it seems to be brussel sprouts and spinach (see e.g., the explosion of brussel sprout recipes on FoodGawker, Tastespotting, etc.). For me, it was eggplants.
I can still remember (strangely vividly) the first time my mom made me eat eggplant. It was cooked Chinese-style – cut into slices, sauteed until soft with ginger, a ton of garlic and soy sauce. It looked…super gross. Mushy, gray-ish-purple chunks in goopy looking sauce? Seven year old Tina was not on board with that. Of course, seven year old Tina didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter, because my mom wouldn’t let me leave the table until after I had cleared everything in my bowl. As I recall, she cleared the table around me, sat down with a pile of work, and patiently waited me out. This type of duress-induced eggplant eating definitely did nothing to endear me to the vegetable.
It wasn’t until high school, when I went back to China for the first time that I finally acquired a taste for eggplant. Honestly, I only ate it at first because it was the only dish that have a billion peppers in it (everything else we ate in Hunan was super frickin’ spicy). But then I realized that eggplant was actually super delicious, especially with garlic and ginger and that previously gag-inducing goopy sauce. It was a revelation! I think I may have eaten my body weight in Chinese-style eggplant that summer.
These days Dan and I both love to eat eggplant, but somehow we never get around to cooking it for ourselves. Laziness, mainly. So when Yummly approached me with an opportunity to reinvent some classic Ragú® recipes, and I saw that one of them was a recipe for eggplant parmesan, I was immediately on board. Eggplant parm is one of our favorite foods, and I’ve been dying to make it for a while now.
As it happens, Dan and I are also big fans of Ragú® – the brand’s pizza sauce is the key to his family’s famous Pizza Dip. Ragú® has the Authentic Italian taste American family’s love, as well as a variety of great tasting, quick and easy to make family favorite recipes. For the Ragú Tra-Dish recipe challenge, my task was to re-imagine the brand’s classic Eggplant Parmesan recipe using Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce. This sauce, made with 11 juicy tomatoes, is Ragú’s richest, thickest recipe, and is absolutely delicious.
For my recipe twist, I decided to skip the bread crumbs and lightly batter my eggplant slices in a thin coating of egg and Parmesan, then pan fry them rather than go the tradition oven route. To put the dish together, I stacked the cooked eggplant slices, with generous spoonfuls of Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce and shredded mozzarella between the layers, and lightly broiled the completed stacks until the cheese was hot and melty. The resulting dish was simultaneously hearty and filling, but light and healthy; and the earthy flavor of the eggplant (which had awesome browned/risp bits all over from the pan) melded wonderfully with the savory goodness of the Ragu® red sauce. Definitely one of the best versions of eggplant parmesan we’ve ever had, and one that we’re going to keep in our recipe arsenal forever!
For more quick, easy and delicious Ragu®-inspired recipe ideas, visit the Ragu Facebook page.
To enter the Ragú Better and Better Sweepstakes, click here for a chance to win great Authentic Italian themed prizes and a grand prize trip to Venice for a family of four.
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- 2 large eggplants
- 1 jar Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Olive oil (or cooking spray)
- Slice both eggplants into quarters (i.e., 4 wedges, like if you were cutting a potato), then cut those into ¼-inch slices length-wise. (Note from Dan - Why did you cut your eggplant into quarters? I'm just going to start at one end and slice my way down. And have round slices instead of weird triangular slices.)
- Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt, to taste. Allow salted eggplant to sit for 15-30 minutes.(If you wish, you can rinse the salted slices and pat dry with paper towels. We love salt in our house, so I didn’t.)
- In a deep dish, mix together eggs and Parmesan, then season with salt/pepper to taste.
- Spray a skillet with cooking spray, or coat the bottom of the skillet with about 1 tbsp olive oil. Heat skillet over medium-high heat.
- Dip eggplant slices in your egg/Parmesan batter and allow excess to drip off.
- Place slices two or three at a time in your hot skillet.
- Fry on both sides until tender/soft and golden-brown. Set cooked slices aside on a plate. (Re-apply cooking spray/olive oil to your pan as needed after each batch.)
- Repeat steps 5-7 until all slices are cooked.
- Set oven to low broil.
- Arrange the dish by placing one eggplant slice on the bottom of a baking sheet, then spoon some of your Ragu sauce on top, sprinkle on some Mozzarella, and then top with another slice of eggplant. Repeat until you get as high of a stack as you want, making sure that your top layer is Ragu sauce + Mozzarella. I got 4 total stacks, with 6-8 slices eggplant each. (Note from Dan #2 - Individual stacks of eggplant parm??? No. Nobody has time for that. I'm layering my circular slices in a baking dish and creating family-style big eggplant parm.)
- Place baking sheet in your oven, and broil for about 1-2 minutes, or until cheese on top is hot and melty/bubbly.
- Remove, and serve immediately.
(Inspired by A Tasty Love Story and Ragu®’s recipes)