It’s weird when you feel like ever word in a recipe should have quotes around it. During the pandemic, my niece, Julia, ate eggplant parmesan. My son, Simon, saw it on FaceTime, and requested that I too make eggplant parmesan. I was happy to oblige, but have never been one for breading and deep frying eggplant. Also, I am always looking for ways to make my cooking a one-pot meal. And finally, when I made this the first time, it was the height of the pandemic and empty-shelves grocery stores, so I had to improvise. Thus was born what Simon calls eggplant parmesan, but what is really a beefy, tomato-y, mishmash of deliciousness. And I call this “pantry” because there are lots of ways to vary this given what you have on hand. One fresh item you will need, however, is eggplant.
Here’s what you need:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow, or white, or red onion, diced
a few cloves of garlic, minced, or a couple tablespoons garlic paste, or some garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or you could do parsley, or you could use some fresh herbs if you have them, or even a few scoops of pantry or frozen pesto)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (or not, if you don’t have it)
1.5 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey, or ground chicken, or a little more or a little less)
1 can diced tomatoes and 1 jar tomato sauce (or 2 cans, diced or pureed or whatever, or two jars)
1 cup parmesan cheese (and/or some other cheese, like shredded mozzerella, or toss in some ricotta or mascarpone or even cottage cheese)
Here’s what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Wash your eggplants and slice them in circles or cut them lengthwise, about 1/2 inch thick. Brush a large baking sheet with one tablespoon olive oil. Lay the eggplants out in a single layer, spray the tops of them with cooking spray, and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them, flip them, and give them another ten minutes. They should be softened and a little golden, but it’s okay if they aren’t 100% cooked.
3. Lower the heat in the oven to 350 degrees.
4. In a large, oven safe pot with a lid, warm the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and herbs, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to soften.
5. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.
6. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost fully cooked.
7. Add the can of tomatos, or a jar of tomato sauce, and stir.
8. Turn off the heat. Layer the eggplant pieces on top of the beef/tomato mixture. Top with the remaining jar of sauce. Then top with whatever cheeses you are using. (Or, if you are using some creamy cheeses, like ricotta or cottage cheese, put that on top of the beef, and then layer the eggplant over it.)
9. Baked, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbly.