Pesto Eggplant Parmesan - Eat Mediterranean Food

4 servings
45 min

This Pesto Eggplant Parmesan is a twist on the classic Italian dish. It is an easy-to-make, flavorful and hearty dish that is perfect for a quick weeknight meal yet elegant enough to serve guests.

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The milky, creamy mozzarella, the bold, bright, herby pesto, the sweet eggplant, the nutty, sharp parmesan, and the fresh, velvety marinara come together and create this delectable dish. Be sure to use fresh mozzarella for the best flavor – it makes all the difference. Serve with a hearty salad and some crusty bread, and you’ve got a complete meal that everyone will love.


Why this recipe works


It is a lighter and healthier version than the traditional eggplant parm since the eggplants are not breaded and fried. Instead, they are roasted in the oven, giving them a sweet flavor without the additional oil they absorb during frying. Eggplants have a pongy and porous flesh making them notorious for absorbing oil.

In addition, the absence of breadcrumbs makes the dish a gluten-free one.

This Pesto Eggplant Parmesan will leave you feeling good, not stuffed or sluggish, while getting a delicious, comforting, satisfying Italian dish.

Also, by roasting the eggplants instead of frying them, there is much less mess in the kitchen and cleaning.


Ingredients to use for this recipe


  • Eggplant – Ripe fresh eggplants will have smooth, shiny skin and a green stem.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Marinara sauce – Either homemade or store-bought; both will work
  • Basil pesto – homemade or store-bought
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese – Use fresh mozzarella for the best flavor – it makes all the difference.
  • Parmesan cheese – adds a level of sharpness and nuttiness.
  • Fresh basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to make the Pesto Eggplant Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400° F and grease a large-rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Set aside.

Wash and slice the eggplant into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Lay them on a paper towel or cooling rack and salt them. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to sweat any extra moisture and bitterness. Rinse them and then pat them dry.

Arrange the prepared eggplant slices on the greased baking sheet and place them in the oven to roast until they are nicely browned around the edges for around 20 minutes.

Remove the eggplant slices from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish with olive oil.

Spread 1/3 of the marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish.

Arrange half of the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole dish.

Top with another 1/3 of the marinara, half of the pesto, and half of the mozzarella cheese.

Repeat for the second layer with the remaining eggplant rounds, marinara, pesto, and mozzarella cheese. Finish by sprinkling the parmesan on top.


You can also use a smaller baking dish and make more layers for taller eggplant parmesan.

Place in the oven to roast until everything is bubbling nicely and the cheese is all melted and golden, around 10-15 minutes.

Top with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Notes and Cooking Tips


Cutting the eggplants thinly and roasting them will help to bring out their natural sweetness and make them extra tender.

Don’t skip the step of sweating the eggplant slices. It removes this vegetable’s bitterness and helps get the best flavor and texture for this dish.

Remember to rinse off the eggplant slices after sweating them. Otherwise, they will be too salty.

You do not have to sweat the eggplant before roasting it. However, it helps remove excess bitterness and moisture from the eggplant. If you do not have time to sweat the eggplant, cut the slices thinner and pat dry as best as possible.

You do not need to remove the eggplant peel; it is entirely edible.

If you use store-bought pesto, read the label and choose one without added preservatives or fillers.

Storing leftovers


Store any leftovers in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 3 days.


More Eggplant Recipes


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Pesto Eggplant Parmesan - Eat Mediterranean Food
Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 35 Minutes Total time: 45 min
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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 1/2 cup marinara sauce homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto homemade or store-bought
  • 1 7-oz ball fresh mozzarella cheese thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400° F and grease a large-rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Set aside.
Wash and slice the eggplant into 1/4" thick rounds.
Lay them on a paper towel or cooling rack and salt them. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to sweat any extra moisture and bitterness. Rinse them and then pat them dry.
Arrange the prepared eggplant slices on the greased baking sheet and place them in the oven to roast until they are nicely browned around the edges for around 20 minutes.
Remove the eggplant slices from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish with olive oil.
Spread 1/3 of the marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish.
Arrange half of the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Top with another 1/3 of the marinara, half of the pesto, and half of the mozzarella cheese.
Repeat for the second layer with the remaining eggplant rounds, marinara, pesto, and mozzarella cheese. Finish by sprinkling the parmesan on top. You can also use a smaller baking dish and make more layers for taller eggplant parmesan.
Place in the oven to roast until everything is bubbling nicely and the cheese is all melted and golden, around 10-15 minutes.
Top with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.
Tips
  • Cutting the eggplants thinly and roasting them will help to bring out their natural sweetness and make them extra tender.
  • Don’t skip the step of sweating the eggplant slices. It removes this vegetable’s bitterness and helps get the best flavor and texture for this dish.
  • Remember to rinse off the eggplant slices after sweating them. Otherwise, they will be too salty.
  • You do not have to sweat the eggplant before roasting it. However, it helps remove excess bitterness and moisture from the eggplant. If you do not have time to sweat the eggplant, cut the slices thinner and pat dry as best as possible.
  • You do not need to remove the eggplant peel; it is entirely edible.
  • If you use store-bought pesto, read the label and choose one without added preservatives or fillers.
  • Not a fan of eggplants? No problem. You substitute the eggplant for zucchini or yellow summer squash.
  • You can also substitute the Parmesan for Pecorino Romano if this is what you have at hand.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Sonia Skounaki-Garbidakis
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