This Italian eggplant parmigiana, which is also known as parmigiana di melanzane, is an authentic Italian recipe and family favourite. This baked eggplant casserole has a tasty tomato and vodka sauce. It’s a great vegetarian dinner idea, just bursting with delicious flavours.
Eggplant parmesan without breading, or parmigiana di melanzane, is made with basil, garlic, Italian cheeses, and more. The creamy, vodka-infused sauce pairs perfectly with it.
Italian Eggplant Parmigiana Ingredients
As well as eggplants you are going to need salt, oil, mozzarella, and parmesan. Even more flavour comes from the basil, parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. For the tomato and vodka sauce, you need tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, vodka, and heavy cream.
You might be curious about the vodka in the sauce. After all, vodka can have a bit of a ‘harsh’ taste. Actually this ingredient helps the creamy consistency to blend with the tomatoes and it doesn’t give much flavour.
If you’d prefer wine to a vodka sauce then a little white wine would probably work in its place although it will change the flavour. If you don’t drink vodka you can just buy a couple of miniature bottles from the store rather than buy a full-size one. Alcohol evaporates at 172 degrees F so simmering it will definitely evaporate the alcohol content of the liquid.
How to Make this Authentic Italian Recipe
The first step in making Italian eggplant parmigiana is slicing the eggplant and salting it. Give it half an hour and you will see the salt has pulled out a lot of moisture. The reason for this is it also draws out the ‘bitter’ flavour of eggplant which some people dislike.
While the salt is doing its job on the eggplant you can start on the vodka sauce. Simmer the vodka for a few minutes. Sauté the onion in another pan then add the vodka. Add garlic to the pan too.
Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, and some salt and black pepper to a blender or food processor and puree this mixture. Add it to the pan with the onions and add the cream. Now cover and simmer the mixture while the oven warms up.
Whisk the oil with basil, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Brush this mixture over the eggplant slices. Bake them for 10 minutes. Now add some sauce to a casserole dish then arrange the eggplant and mozzarella on top.
Add the rest of the sauce to the eggplant parmesan without breading then add the rest of the cheese. Season and bake, then serve the finished parmigiana di melanzane with fresh basil.
Tips for Success
Although baked eggplant casserole is pretty straightforward, there are a few tips and tricks to be aware of. First, when salting the eggplant slices to draw out moisture, don’t forget to rinse them afterwards. Otherwise they will be too salty. Rinsing off the salt also rinses off the bitter juice the salt has pulled out.
Since cheese is a key component in eggplant parmesan without breading, use good quality mozzarella and parmesan. You don’t have to use buffalo mozzarella (the best kind!) if you don’t want to, but do use an Italian brand. And you will need vacuum-packed mozzarella not the shredded or block kind.
As for the parmesan, it’s worth springing for the fresh kind rather than the type that comes in a re-sealable package. The worst kind is the powdered ‘parmesan’ which isn’t really parmesan! Don’t use that in an authentic Italian recipe.
Italian Eggplant Parmigiana FAQs
Eggplant skin is perfectly edible although the skin on older eggplant does get more bitter and tough as the vegetable ages. I have had baked eggplant casserole both ways.
If you want to peel the eggplant first, go ahead. If not, it just needs to be rinsed off, although you will be doing that after salting it anyway.
The key is removing moisture from the eggplant before assembling the dish. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to salt the eggplant slices before making the dish.
Brunello, Chianti or another Italian red from the Tuscan region would be great alongside baked eggplant casserole. Other suitable options include Barbera or Sangiovese.
Italian Eggplant Parmigiana with Vodka Sauce Recipe
Italian Eggplant Parmigiana with Vodka Sauce
- 4 Roma tomatoes diced
- 1 Can crushed tomatoes 14.5 ounces
- 1 white onion
- 4 Cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoon basil chopped
- Pinch pepper
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- ¼ Cup vodka
- ½ Cup heavy cream
- Slice the eggplant into ½” pieces. Arrange onto a paper towel lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 30 minutes to draw out excess moisture.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat a frying pan as well as a small saucepan over medium high heat.
- Pour the vodka into the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol.
- Meanwhile, add a tbsp of olive oil to the frying pan and swirl to coat the pan. Saute the onions for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the vodka. Grate 2 garlic cloves over the onions .
- Next, combine the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, basil, remaining garlic cloves, pepper, and salt in a food processor or blender and purée. Pour into the frying pan. Set the heat to a simmer and stir in the heavy cream. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine olive oil, chopped basil, minced garlic, Italian parsley, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk well.
- Remove eggplants from the paper towel and onto a wooden cutting board. Brush the eggplant and mozzarella slices with this mixture.
- Discard the paper towel and add eggplants back to the baking sheet. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Pour ½ cup of sauce onto the bottom of a casserole dish. Spread to cover.
- Arrange eggplant and mozzarella slices in an alternating pattern starting from the outer edge of the pan to the middle.
- Pour remaining sauce over the slices. Cover with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and place into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped basil.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
Italian eggplant parmigiana is an authentic Italian recipe. Also known as parmigiana di melanzane, this eggplant parmesan without breading is packed with incredible flavours and pairs nicely with a fresh green salad.
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.