Components to have ready & on standby: Your favorite pasta sauce and grated cheese. Once the eggplant is done, it's just a quick assembly!
Prep the Eggplant
Slice the eggplant ¾ inch thick, placing it in a single layer on a rack or colander.Lightly and evenly salt each slice, both top, and bottom. Over the next hour, the moisture will bead up and drip away. Periodically lightly dab the moisture away with a paper towel. Flipping the slices and dabbing the other side. If needed, and only on the thickest slices, sprinkle a bit more salt if you feel it needs a bit more.
Set up for the dredging step using 3 bowls. One bowl for the plain flour, one for an egg wash mixture (2 eggs + ¼ C water), and the last for the panko/bread crumb mixture. If you have plain breadcrumbs on hand, just add 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning to the mix. The process goes dry, wet, dry. Lightly coat each slice of eggplant with plain flour, tamping off the extra. Then swirl it around in the egg wash, then cover it with the panko/bread crumb mixture. Set each prepped slice aside and allow to sit while the rest are breaded. Allowing them to sit and rest will create a crust that will adhere better when frying.
In a large frying pan heat a neutral oil (or a light olive oil that will resist a low smoking point) to around 350f. How much you need will depend on the size of your pan. Use enough to cover at least ½ way up the slices of the eggplant. Test for heat with a small cluster of bread crumbs, if they sizzle, it's ready.
Pan-fry the eggplant until golden brown on each side. Remove to drain on paper towels (or a clean repurposed paper bag). No need to resalt at this point.
Preheat your oven to 350f and select what kind of baking dish you want. You can use a 9x13 cake pan, or ceramic baking dishes, pie plates, whatever you have available.
Simply place a few slices in your baking dish, cover with a light sprinkle of cheese. Then cover very lightly aluminum foil and par-bake this for 10 minutes or so to melt the cheese and re-crisp the eggplant. Don't completely seal the foil cover, you don't want to steam the crispy eggplant. When the cheese is slightly melted, add warm scoops of your pasta sauce, then more cheese and bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. You can also switch the oven to 'broil' to finish it off to get the color you like. Sprinkle on some grated (or pearled) parmesan, a little fresh parsley, and enjoy!
Slice your eggplant at least ¾" thick. Half an inch is a bit too thin, and a full inch is a little stout - but better thicker than thinner. ¾" is just about right.A medium-sized eggplant should give at least 5 slices. Depending on how many slices you'd like per serving, usually 2 to 3 - I know many people who eat 4 slices per serving. Considering it's a vegetable and not meat, my family tends to eat bigger portions. To serve 4 people you'll likely need at least 2 eggplants, likely 3. The dredging quantities, sauce, and cheese for this recipe should be adequate for 14-16 slices of eggplant.