Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Grilled eggplant Parmesan made with stacks of eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

This fabulous grilled eggplant Parmesan is my take on the traditional “eggplant Parm,” a staple of red-sauce Italian joints. It’s a revelation. Forget about the heavy, greasy eggplant lost in deep-fried breading. Here it’s grilled to a softly charred beauty and layered with melted cheese, seasoned bread crumbs, and a delicate tomato sauce. This recipe began as an attempt to convert my husband, who was scarred as a youth when forced to eat eggplant at its slimy, viscous, undercooked worst. As a result, he refers to eggplant as the organ meat of vegetables. Not fair. Whenever he’s out, I cook eggplant!–Lucinda Scala Quinn

LC Darn Good Thing Note

This grilled eggplant Parmesan recipe isn’t exactly traditional. With all due respect to Nonnas everywhere, we consider that to be a darn good thing.

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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Ingredients

  • For the tomato sauce
  • For the grilled eggplant Parmesan

Directions

Make the tomato sauce

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and tilt to swirl so it coats the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. You want to cook the garlic just long enough so it releases its fragrance but not so long that it turns golden.

Stir in the tomatoes and the salt, crank the heat to high, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and deep red in color. Add the basil sprig, if using, for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove the basil before serving and swirl in the butter, if desired.

Make the grilled eggplant Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Brush the eggplant rounds on both sides with 1/3 cup olive oil and season with the salt. Working in batches, place the eggplant on the grill rack or in the grill pan and cook, flipping once, until charred and softened, 8 to 12 minutes total. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, cutting board, or baking sheet.

Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, pepper, herbs, and the remaining 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl.

Place 8 slices grilled eggplant flat on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top each with 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato sauce (the more tomato sauce you use, the more likely the stacks will be to slip and slide), 1/2 to 1 tablespoon bread crumb mixture, and 1 slice mozzarella. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

Bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This grilled eggplant Parmesan recipe is a really easy way to make eggplant Parmesan. The recipe eliminated several steps that I usually include when making the classic eggplant Parmesan. It also eliminates some of the fat in the dish by grilling the eggplant rather than frying it. I was a little concerned that the eggplant rounds weren't salted and drained before they were grilled, as I've always done this to remove some of the bitter liquid from the eggplant, but I didn’t see a difference in the final results. I used 2 eggplants that weighed just over 2 pounds. I got 36 rounds, cutting the rounds 1/3 inch thick, therefore, I was able to make 12 stacks. I think this recipe would serve 8 to 12 as an appetizer or 6 as a main course.

Eggplant Parmesan made with breaded and fried eggplant is fine, but this grilled eggplant Parmesan recipe is so much better, you'll never go back. Not only do you save the steps of breading and frying—and the ensuing mess—but you gain the terrific flavor of eggplant on the grill. Eggplant absorbs smoke almost as readily as it absorbs oil, so if you can do this over lump charcoal with a few soaked wood chips sprinkled in, you're in for a treat. The accompanying sauce was simple and delicious—it really doesn't need to be any more complicated than this. Since I've been playing around with cheesemaking, I used homemade, raw milk mozzarella. Which is great, but a fresh mozzarella from the store will also be great. I have to say, I've made a recipe very similar to this with ricotta instead of mozzarella and it was really good, so if you have really good ricotta, I wouldn't hesitate to use it here. My eggplants were exactly the size recommended (that is, 1 1/4 pounds per eggplant), and I got about 12 slices per eggplant. The cooking time for the eggplant will work if you have your grill temperature pretty low, say 350° to 400°F. If you don't have a thermometer, you want to be able to hold your hand about an inch above the surface and count out 5 seconds (1 alligator, 2 alligator, etc) before your hand gets so hot you have to pull it away. If your grill is hotter than this (and most people tend to grill hotter this), you will need to check your eggplant sooner to make sure it doesn't burn. With 3 slices per stack (I put the smaller-diameter ones on top), that would yield 8 servings from 2 eggplants.

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