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Eggplant Parmigiana: The Donadeo Family Recipe

Absolutely scrumptiously yummy for your tummy!

Food and friendships. I cannot separate the two. I work to demonstrate my love and appreciation of my friends and family through the food I make. And, I am one of the “lucky ones”. I have had friendships for over 40 years. Actually, I learned when I was 12 years old the importance of loyalty and support within a friendship, and that bode me well in those tumultuous teen years. My life long friendships were made when I was in grade 7: 12 years old. Our children have grown up together and have become friends. How rich is that? We are the keeper of one another’s memories. That is precious. There is nothing like sitting with a friend who not only knows you, but remembers because she was there. I value and cherish these friendships.

One such friend is Luciana. We met at a sleepover. She went to the Catholic school and I to the public school. The neighbour across the street also went to the Catholic school and invited us both to the party. Somehow, we just clicked. Everyone else went to sleep. We couldn’t . We gathered all the underwear in the room and hid it everywhere. We had so much wicked and naughty fun that first up-all-night party. The music of the night:” I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes… love that’s all around me, so the feeling grows.” Do you remember it? “There’s no beginning, there” be no end ’cause on my love you can depend…” Those were the days.

Yet, we have chapters like that. Entire novels within each chapter. Holidays together, parties, trials and tribulations. And food. Luciana is a first generation Italian. It is really odd when I think of it, but I never ate at her house. Ever. She definitely ate at mine a lot, but that is how it was. There were usually so many people at her house for meals that one more would never matter; however, as I think about it now, it was probably because everyone was speaking Italian. He cousins were always close and nearby and the house usually packed at meal time. We would escape and go somewhere else.

But, as we grew into our own families, oh my, can that girl cook. She used to really enjoy it, too, but has really gone to the dark side these last few years with buying a lot of convenience foods.  Her sister was much younger in the former days, and kind of hung around, but later, she managed to catch up. You know how that happens. Lydia would take more time trying to replicate her mother’s recipes. Their mother makes the BEST gardinera pickles I have ever eaten, but won’t share the recipe and won’t let me come and photograph her making them. I hope one day I will be allowed to capture the magic and enable future generations to pass it on. But Lydia definitely did her mother proud with her Eggplant Parmigiana. It was outrageously good. She shared her recipe and technique with me, and I finally got it.

This is absolutely divine. For the perfect recipe, you must use Luciana and Lydia’s mom’s homemade tomato sauce. However, I find that my Best Ever Tomato Sauce stands up to my recollection of how good hers is. So, that is what I used for this recipe. But, do not kid yourself. It is all about the sauce. This dish must have a stellar sauce. Then, a mix of authentic cheeses, and crispy eggplant. Oh, my.

I plated some the day I made all of the casseroles for the freezer and just did the individual portions in the oven (the first photo) and even my carnivore loving husband felt his need for meat satiated with this dish. I almost fell over.

So, Donadeo family: I hope I have done you proud on this one. This is one dish that I will always make thinking of you. The Gardinera would be another I would love to learn to make, should the head of that family kitchen ever change her mind. :)

The photo essay says it all. The recipe follows.

Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups Panko
  • butter, for greasing the dish
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thymeleaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 to 3 medium eggplants (about 2 1/4-pounds), cut into 1/4 inch-thick long slices (need about 18 slices)
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • Best Ever Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 12 ounces grated Mozzarella, plus 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces grated Fontina
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Instructions:

  1. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture; set aside for a couple of hours, or over night
  2. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 15 by 10 by 2-inch baking dish; set aside
  3. Arrange three shallow bowls: one filled with panko bread crumbs (with the herbs and salt and pepper added), one with seasoned flour, and one with the eggs whisked with 2 tablespoons of water
  4. Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper; dredge each slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip in the egg, and then in the panko
  5. Shake off any excess crumbs and transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet; repeat with the remaining eggplant slices
  6. Heat 1/2-inch of oil in 2 large straight-sided sautépans over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385ºF
  7. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch; sing tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet
  8. Repeat with the remaining eggplant
  9. Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the tomato sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce
  10. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, grated Mozzarella, Fontina, Parmesan cheese and some of the basil
  11. Repeat to make 3 layers ending with the sauce; top with the fresh slices of mozzarella and remaining Parmesan and bake until hot and just beginning to brown (about 30 minutes)
  12. Let rest 10 minutes before serving
  13. Get ready to rumble: this will knock your socks off it is so yummy!

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About Valerie Lugonja

Educator, Writer, Gardener and Traveler who believes in buying and eating locally, and most importantly cooking at home!

Join The Conversation!

  1. Absolutely delicious! Valerie I love this!

  2. Love eggplants!! gloria

  3. It’s one of my favourite meatless dishes and you HAVE to bread & fry the eggplant to get eggplant parm just so!

  4. I had a friend growing up with an Italian father. Even though her mother was Polish, the Italian side won over and I used to join them for the most fabulous Italian dinners. I still drool thinking about her homemade spaghetti and sauce.

  5. I completely agree, food and family are totally inseparable. Luciana sounds like an amazing friend and this looks like a wonderful dish! I love the mixture of cheeses you’ve used in it.

  6. Oh my God Valerie, I love that song! Now I want to look for it and play it on repeat. I’m not surprised at all that you have many long and true friendships. Honestly, anyone who’s ever had a chance to be embraced by your warm, loving, sincere friendship should run out and buy a lottery ticket because finding such warm friendship like yours really is like winning the lottery. Ok, now that I’ve said it, that doesn’t make sense. I take back the running out and buying a lottery ticket part. If you’ve already hit the jackpot, why do you need to run out and buy a lottery ticket? But I hope you understood what I was trying to get at. That we are very lucky to have found a friend as wonderful as you. Loved the underwear story…teehee.

    This looks so delicious, Valerie! I think I told you that I love eggplants and hubby hates them. He’d be like Vanja, telling me to add meat into this. Naughty naughty Vanja :-). Definitely meatless for me please. Everything was done perfectly here. Your eggplants fried to perfection, the cheese melted to perfection, and the perfect sauce to accompany this. I’m loving your photo essays. Thank you for sharing this with us. Good luck with the Gardinera recipe ;-).

    PS
    I love raw oysters so much more than deep fried ones. That’s when you get the true delicious freah taste of the oyster. Yumms! I agree though, they must be small when eaten raw, but when deep frying I don’t care what size they are. I must search for your recipe!

  7. It looks delicious. Perfect to get us through these winter days.

  8. That’s a delicious looking dish and captured so beautifully by the photos.

    I, too, have the fortune to have life-long friends. I laughed at your comment that they are the keeper of your memories. As we age, we need people to prod and remind us.

  9. What a most delicious eggplant parmesan dish! Recipes like this one make it easy to cut back on meat.

  10. Eggplant Parmesan is a family favorite. I love the mix of cheeses you use in this. And the light breading allows you to almost convince yourself its not all that bad for you.

  11. I completely agree with your Valerie..family, food and friendship are the most beautiful things of life.I have always maintained that friends should be good but few and for life..and whenever I m in the kitchen so many recipes and food remind me of associated memories of either eating up or preparing them.I have friends as old as 15 years.A beautiful post with beautiful eggplant parmigiana.I love this veggie dish from Italian cuisine the most.Warm eggplant with oodles of cheese:)
    Re: Yes you are right,foxnuts when toasted have a crunch similar to popcorn and they even stick in the teeth:)They are called “Makhana” in Indian (Hindi) language and you can get them for a couple of dollars at any indian store.

  12. This eggplant parmigiana looks incredibly delicious! I love the fontina cheese here, excellent!

  13. So, so true – I identify with your first sentance so strongly. Cooking for someone is intrinsically entwined with affection for them in my book. And so much love would go into this dish because with several stages it is a bit of a labour of love. My daughter would love this – thanks for sharing.

  14. This is not only great for tummy, but also for eyes! Looks wonderfully cheesy and tasty!

  15. Just retweeted it. :-)) Kept forgetting using tweeter…still not used to it.

  16. Oh yes indeedy Val., that one is a classic, love all the different cheeses you use, that would mix things up a bit (in a very, very good way).

  17. I too have friendships that have started when I was really young… It’s indeed great fun to have friends that you’ve know for such a long time… (those are my non cooking friends mostly though..:))
    Your eggplant parmesana looks absolutely delicious!!

  18. Yes – I remember that song, but I was doing something very different when I heard it LOL I never would have thought you had it in you ;)

    Valerie, I could happily devour the crumbed and fried eggplant slices, but with all the fixings *sigh* Just one word … HEAVEN!!!

  19. Panko here is a great tip and I was thinking of this dish this week for some reason and there you have it! It is just mouthwatering and how lovely to know who was the inspiration for it!

  20. That parmigiana looks absolutely wonderful! Thanks for sharing the recipe, and the story of your friendship.

  21. I simply adore eggplants. This recipe sounds amazing. Lovely photos and post.

  22. Valerie…this is one of my very favourite dishes…and actually never made by me! Incredible, isn’t it? The only one that ever made this in the family was my ‘Nonna’ and since then, no one dared touch it. I shall one day break the chain.

    Love the idea of using panko ;o)

    Stunning photos…you’ve made me incredibly hungry!

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  23. You sound like you have some amazing memories with your friends. That eggplant parmegiana looks absolutely delectable, and it’s something I haven’t had in forever!

  24. I am groaning, moaning, drooling over that eggplant. It’s my absolute favorite veggie. I’m having some tonight…roasted. But I’d rather have yours. What a fab recipe, Valerie!
    And yes, food and friendships are wonderful. You have some lovely memories and talented friends!

  25. I must admit that eggplant is not my favourite thing, but you have made this look and sound delicious! Funny, I had an Italian friend when I was about the same age and I used to eat at her house. Everything looked delicious, but she only ate plain pasta with butter and cheese, so that’s all I ever got!

  26. I’m with you…I think cooking for someone can be one of the very best ways to show your love for them! Whether it be family, friends or significant others. This eggplant parm looks delicious. Comfort food at it’s finest!

  27. That, my dear, is the perfect pile of loveliness! What I would give to be eating it right now…

    My hubby has a strange texture thing with eggplant, but I bet I could get him to eat it this way!

    • Sommer,
      Your husband would love this. The “texture thing” with the eggplant is very different in this dish. The slimy texture it can have, at times, is transformed through the salt and drain drying process before these are even battered and fried. Biting into one of these “fillets” after frying the texture of the eggplant is creamy and lush. Very different than one might expect which is part of the beauty of this dish. This was done in poverty ridden Italy by ingenious mama’s trying to feed their large families. The veal parmigiana that we know is an American dish. Not an Italian one. Couldn’t resist adding that as I said in the post, even my husband, then ultimate carnivore, found this dish very satisfying as a “meat dish”.
      :)
      Valerie

  28. Hey Valerie! Wowzers, this is my kind of food, lady;)! Really though, this looks amazing. To me, there is nothing like a really wholesome, homemade eggplant parmesana. It’s just peasant food at its best in my mind (and mouth-smile). Plus, I was just thinking the other day about my friend’s awesome tomato sauce. He won’t give up the recipe to anyone. So I’m going to try yours! Yeah!
    Oh, and you’re right about appreciating friendship in a proper way. It’s so important to appreciate the people that are loyal. I’m with ya…;-)!!!

  29. Oh my goodness, Valerie. What a glorious hodgepodge of luscious flavors and textures. :-) I LOVE it!!

  30. Hi sweet lady. What a great post. My husband loves eggplant parmesana, and I know this is going to make him happy on Monday night. He’s going to his grandma’s funeral this weekend, and I think this will be wonderful to welcome him home. I loved hearing about your friendship too. I have a best friend that I’ve known since I was 13, and I know we will be close for years to come. Thank you for sharing this deliciousness tonight. I hope you have a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend.

  31. Eggplant parmesan is one of my absolute favorites! Your photos of the preparation of the dish are stunning. Usually making this is so messy! Yet somehow you’ve kept everything orderly and neat. I could never do that.

    I really love that song that you’re quoting the lyrics from, too. It features in one of my all-time favorite movies, the holiday “classic,” Love Actually. Thanks for the recipe and the memories. I’m already enjoying the weekend (and it is only Friday morning here!)

  32. This is wonderful – you can almost taste this just looking at the pic and the fact that it 100% vegetarian is fabulous….this is a beautiful post where the prep photos are just as gorgeous as the finished product! Brava Val!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  33. Aren’t friends the absolute best? If you know the number of times Italians have told me this is their favourite dish ever……And now I understand the appeal. I love the breaded aubergine slices, and the combination of soft, cooked eggplant with cheese and tomato sauce if rewarding. Hugely so.

  34. Ho wonderful to learn this recipe at the hands of a cherished Italian family Valerie. Id does sound delicious!!!

  35. This looks like a fair amount of effort, but very worth it. My husband and I grew eggplant in our garden last summer for the first time and thought it was amazing. I think we loved absolutely everything we made with it. Great looking dish :)

  36. This is such a beautiful dish and what a great gift to share with friends and loved ones. The photos make me drool all over my computer… SO AMAZING !!!

  37. This looks great! I’m so picky about eggplant and I can honestly say your recipe is one of the most delicious I have seen. The eggplant looks so crunchy….yum!

  38. friends are the best, I have lost touch with many of my closer friends with so many moves, your post make me want to send them a quick email, I hope on day you are allowed to share the family recipe..a perfect eggplant dish,such a great coating..

    sweetlife

  39. Valerie: You are a beautiful writer.I enjoyed the post. Cherishing friends and family over delicious meals made from the heart is the best gift any friend could provide for another. This vegetarian recipe for eggplant parmigiana looks really good and I like how you tutor all of us through the steps with pictures. Pictures tell a thousand words. Lots of love to you.

  40. What a wonderful, warm and delicious looking dish! You have a beautiful blog and I’m so glad to have found it. I’m looking forward to exploring your recipes and seeing more! :)

  41. Gorgeous recipe, so full of flavour!

  42. haha…at sleepovers, I’m always the first to fall asleep :S When I grow up, I hope my friends learn to cook like their parents- I love going over to their places and trying out the food their mothers make- it’s always so good! This parmigiana look delicious! I’ve never actually had eggplant parmigiana before, although I’ve seen it in cookbooks, but I’ve never wanted to make it until I saw this! The fried eggplant looks so tempting (then again, I love fried foods…)- I must try this some day!

  43. Oh, this is the perfect place to comment. I LOVE eggplant parm, and panko is the only breading I use nowadays, nothing beats it for eggplant Yours looks spectacular, and one I need to file away to try.

    That said, I wish I could blog more often, but as of now, it’s just two of us, so I would be throwing so much food away (I have a hard time cooking just enough for two, always feel we’ll want more lol)! However, I just so happen to be putting up another post tomorrow, (with a giveawy) which is probably the least amount of time between posts in ages!

  44. What wonderful memories. It looks as though you have done the Donadeo family more than proud with this tempting eggplant parmesana.

  45. Friends and good food go together to make great memories. Thanks for sharing. OK Valerie this looks fantastic and now I must try my hand at the Eggplant Parmesana! What photo program do you use? I love the gallery of photos. Shoot me an email if you can. Wish that I was closer I would be in your classes. Such fun. Wanda

  46. What a great story of friendship. I still have a few friends that I grew up with and so love getting together with them although the visits are far and few between. And this is one fabulous eggplant parmesan – one of my favorites. I really want to try your sauce and now this parmesan is on my list as well.

  47. Can I use Zucchini instead of eggplant? Would love to make it but not everyone likes eggplant.

    THanks! Love reading your Canadian Foodie!

    • Valerie says:

      What a lovely compliment, Sandra!
      Zucchini could be used… but it would be much drier as the eggplant brings that lovely crispy crust and moist centre to the plate. Just cut the zucchini quite thick and test it out for one serving before doing a big batch – but really, how can you go wrong with cheese and sauce and all that good stuff? I will add, that those that typically do not like eggplant do not usually recognize it in this dish.
      :)
      Valerie

      • Thanks for the advice!! I think I am going to try the eggplant first in case I do like it. Love gooey cheeses and sauces which is why the recipe made me hungry to try it!

  48. Valerie, this looks so delicious. I LOVE eggplant parmigiana (I feel so fancy and Italian typing that instead of parmesan hehe) and your history with Luciana is so sweet. I’ve recently connected with some childhood friends and am so glad I did.

    As for the chorizo frittata you made and your comment on my blog, did you use the same recipe I used (minus the veggies) and were your cooking times/temp the same? I honestly found the recipe easy as could be and the blogger I adapted it from seemed to like it too. I’d also say that the veggies are a pretty important part of the dish, which wouldn’t be nearly as delicious without them. Still, I don’t think the absence of them would’ve changed the texture greatly. Thanks for your feedback, especially if you used the recipe I posted as I wouldn’t want to post anything but the most delicious, reliable ones =).

  49. Valerie, what a deliciously-lovely post. I ♥ cheese, and eggplant. Those photos are stunning!

    I also wanted to thank you for all your wonderful comments! Your positive, and upbeat energy always puts me in a good mood. :D

  50. This is comfort food at his best. What a great texture and colors.

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