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Italian Eggplant Parmigiana (Parmigiana di melanzane)

Eggplant Parmigiana, also known as Parmigiana di melanzane or Melanzane alla parmigiana, is a dearly beloved dish throughout Italy. It is one of those dishes that everybody loves and craves and swears by their “nonna’s recipe”. 

In essence, Eggplant Parmigiana is more or less like a vegetarian lasagna. It is made with thin layers of eggplant, mozzarella, passata di pomodoro (homemade tomato sauce), lots and lots of parmesan cheese and, of course, the obligatory fresh basil.

It has a delightful combination of flavors and a creamy, melted cheese consistency to die for.  

slice of eggplant parmesan on white plate with shredded cheese and basil on top.
A slice of parmigiana di melanzane.

Ingredients

ingredients to make eggplant parmesan in bowls on counter with labels.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for this authentic eggplant parmesan:

  • Eggplants – Use large eggplants without soft spots.
  • Mozzarella balls – Use fresh mozzarella balls if at all possible. Make sure to drain them well. If you’re unable to find fresh mozzarella, you can use a block of mozzarella cheese and grate some of it, but the flavors won’t be as authentic.
  • Tomato passata – Traditionally Melanzale alla parmigiana is made with homemade passata, but you can also use store-bought tomato passata. Alternatively, you can also use homemade or store-bought Marinara sauce.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano – Preferably Parmigiano Reggiano that you grate yourself, but grana padano is also an option (it’s usually a bit cheaper).
  • Fresh basil leaves – Fresh basil is key to maximize the flavors of the final dish, so don’t skip it.
  • Olive oil – To grill or fry the eggplants. Don’t use any other kind of oil since it would impact the final flavor of the dish. 
  • Salt – To help the eggplants lose some of their moisture and to enhance the overall flavor.

Recipe Tips

  • Some traditional recipes deep fry the eggplant slices, but I find that makes the final dish too heavy and more difficult to digest, so I recommend grilling the eggplant with a little olive oil for a lighter result. 
  • I like to salt the eggplant slices a bit to help them release some moisture, cook faster and become softer, but you can skip this step. 
  • If you’re using store-bought marinara sauce, choose one that is not acidic. If it is, you can correct it by adding half a teaspoon of white sugar. 
  • I recommend adding a layer of tomato passata as the base to help the eggplant layer on top stay in place and be juicier, but it’s a personal preference, so feel free to skip.
  • Don’t skimp on the Parmigiano, this dish needs a lot of it! Also, if possible, buy a wedge of cheese and grate it at home. 
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How to Make Eggplant Parmesan – Step by Step Instructions

Here are all the recipe steps with process photos so you can refer to them as you make your eggplant parmigiana at home.

If you’re not a fan of visuals, jump to the detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post!

slices of raw eggplant in bowl with counter top and ingredients around.

First, rinse the eggplants and cut the tops off. Then cut the eggplants horizontally so you end up with thin, long slices.

Place the eggplant slices in a bowl and sprinkle each slice with a bit of salt. This will help them release some of their moisture.

At this time also preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

slices of fresh mozzarella on wooden cutting board with knife beside.

While the eggplant is resting, prepare the remaining ingredients: Drain the mozzarella balls and cut them into slices. Also, grate the Parmigiano cheese.

small grill frying slices of eggplant with other ingredients around on counter.

Heat a grill pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Drain the eggplant slices and lay them on the grill pan to cook until softened and lightly browned on both sides.

Work in batches.

wooden spoon spreading tomato sauce into white baking dish.
layer of grilled eggplant laid in white baking dish on counter.

To assemble the dish, spread a layer of tomato passata at the bottom of an oven-safe dish.

Then arrange a layer of grilled eggplant slices over the passata, making sure the base is fully covered.

grated parmesan on layers of tomato sauce and eggplant in white baking dish.
fresh basil and slices of mozzarella layered in white baking dish on counter.

Add another layer of the tomato passata, followed by a generous sprinkle of the grated Parmigiano.

Now tear a few basil leaves by hand and place them on top. Then also place a layer of mozzarella cheese on top.

layer of grilled eggplant in white baking dish on counter with ingredients around.
eggplant parmesan in white baking dish covered in shredded parmesan.

Repeat the process until you’ve used all the ingredients. Finish with a layer of tomato passata, topped with a few basil leaves and grated Parmigiano.

baking dish of eggplant parmesan cut into slices with one slice on white plate nearby on counter.

Bake the assembled dish in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything looks bubbly and sizzling.

Serve the eggplant parmigiana hot and enjoy!

Storage Tips

Parmigiana di melanzane is best eaten hot right after being made, but it could also be considered a meal prep-friendly dish since it can be made in a large batch ahead of time. 

Leftovers can be stored (once cooled) in the same baking dish covered with plastic wrap or portioned in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

Related Recipes

Here are some other classic Italian recipes that you may want to make:

slice of eggplant parmesan on white plate with basil on top and fork beside.

Eggplant Parmesan (Parmigiana di melanzane)

As a simple, timeless dish, Eggplant Parmesan is layer upon layer of flavorful goodness. Made with freshly grilled eggplant, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil, this recipe is a true dinner classic.
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggplants
  • 2 balls fresh mozzarella
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato passata
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmigiano reggiano, or grana padano cheese
  • a bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the eggplants and cut the ends off. Then cut the eggplants horizontally so you end up with thin, long slices.
    3 large eggplants
  • Place the eggplant slices in a bowl, with a bit of salt sprinkled on every slice so they release some of their moisture.
    1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • While the eggplant is resting, prepare the remaining ingredients: Drain the mozzarella balls and cut them into slices. Grate the Parmigiano cheese.
    2 balls fresh mozzarella, 1 1/2 cups Parmigiano reggiano
  • Heat a grill pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Drain the eggplant slices and lay them on the grill pan to cook until softened and lightly browned on both sides. Work in batches.
    2 tablespoons olive oil
  • To assemble the dish, spread a layer of tomato passata at the bottom of an oven-safe dish. Arrange a layer of grilled eggplant over the passata, making sure the base is fully covered. Add another layer of the tomato passata, followed by a generous sprinkle of the grated Parmigiano. Tear a few basil leaves by hand and place them on top. Then also place a layer of mozzarella cheese on top.
    2 1/2 cups tomato passata, a bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • Repeat the process until you've used all the ingredients. Finish with a layer of tomato passata, topped with a few basil leaves and grated Parmigiano.
  • Bake the assembled dish in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything looks bubbly and sizzling.
  • Serve the eggplant parmigiana hot.

Notes

  • If possible, use large eggplants without soft spots. You can use smaller eggplants, but the grilling will take longer.
  • Use fresh mozzarella balls if possible. If you’re unable to find fresh mozzarella, you can use a block of mozzarella cheese and grate some of it, but the flavors won’t be as authentic.
  • Some traditional recipes deep fry the eggplant slices, but it can make the dish too heavy and more difficult to digest, so I recommend grilling the eggplant with a little olive oil for a lighter result.
  • Traditionally Melanzale alla parmigiana is made with homemade passata, but you can also use store-bought tomato passata. Alternatively, you can also use homemade or store-bought Marinara sauce.
  • Don’t skimp on the Parmigiano, this dish needs a lot of it! Also, if possible, buy a wedge of cheese and grate it at home. 

Nutrition

Calories: 474kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 1260mg | Potassium: 2010mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 1563IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 674mg | Iron: 5mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
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