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Light Eggplant Parmesan & Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

Marcelle enjoys preparing delicious meals for family and friends. She especially loves creating original, plant-based, vegan recipes.

Looking for a healthy, vegetarian, low-sodium, and delicious option for dinner? Try this healthy version of eggplant Parmesan and compare its nutritional profile with the same dish at some popular Italian chain restaurants. Use the low-sodium basic tomato sauce recipe included for all your Italian dishes. It tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen but it is actually very quick and easy to prepare.

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The Purple Plant

Eggplants are a nutrition powerhouse! Low in calories (just 20 per cup), eggplants provide a good source of fiber, potassium, and B vitamins. This purple-hued vegetable is rich in chlorogenic acid, a potent antioxidant compound with anti-cancer, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-LDL cholesterol activity. These oblong purple gems grow on vines, much like tomatoes, and have been described as having a pleasant but slightly bitter taste. When selecting eggplants at your grocer, choose those that are firm and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth and shiny, with vivid color. Store eggplants for a few days in your refrigerated crisper drawer.

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Eggplant Parmesan Nutritional Comparison

Restaurant

Calories

Fat

Sodium

Olive Garden

850

35

1900

Maggiano’s Little Italy

820

31

3080

The Spaghetti Warehouse

1370

74

1273

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

950

56

1250

Eggplant Parmesan Nutrition Varies

You could order this yummy dish at your local Italian restaurant but it might not be as healthy as you think. A serving of eggplant Parmesan can set you back over 1300 calories, over 70 grams of fat, and more than 3000mg of sodium! By comparison, the recipe offered here lightens up with just 260 calories per serving, 7 grams of fat and only 219mg or sodium. That's quite a difference! The chart below compares nutritional content for this dish at several popular Italian chain restaurants.

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Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

Using an oven rather than a frying pan lightens up this recipe, along with excluding the typical overload of cheese and salt. You won't miss out though on flavor with this home-cooked, hearty meal. Make this meal in advance and put it covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it in the oven. Add a few minutes to cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants, about 2 pounds
  • 4 tablespoons organic cartoned egg whites, or flaxseed egg (see below under make it vegan)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup fine, dry whole-wheat bread crumbs or panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, see recipe below
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, or dairy-free cheese shreds

Use a Good Tomato Sauce

Be sure to use the simple tomato sauce recipe posted below. The sauce makes a big difference in the flavor and texture of this eggplant Parmesan and the texture. A store-bought, jarred sauce won't quite to the job with this recipe.

Make it Vegan!

Just a few simple substitutions will make this meal vegan and no less delicious. First, for the egg, substitute 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Let it sit for a few minutes before using. Next, substitute vegan "parmesan" and "cheese" and you've made a vegan meal.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  4. Whisk egg whites and water in a shallow dish. Combine breadcrumbs, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, garlic powder and black pepper in another dish.
  5. Dip the eggplant slices first into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture and arrange the slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake eggplant slices for 15 minutes, turn, then cook another 15 minutes.
  7. Spread about ½ cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping as needed. Spread half of the sliced basil leaves on top of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon about 1 cup of sauce over the cheese. Arrange the rest of the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, the rest of the basil, the remaining sauce and then the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake uncovered at 400°F until the sauce bubbles and the top is slightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
Slice eggplant about 1/4-inch thick.

Slice eggplant about 1/4-inch thick.

Dip eggplant slices into egg mixture.

Dip eggplant slices into egg mixture.

Coat with breadcrumb mixture. Gently shake off any excess.

Coat with breadcrumb mixture. Gently shake off any excess.

Arrange coated slices on a lined baking sheet.

Arrange coated slices on a lined baking sheet.

Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Flip slices over and bake another 15 minutes.

Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Flip slices over and bake another 15 minutes.

Spread sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant, chopped basil, and mozzarella cheese. Spoon sauce on top.

Spread sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant, chopped basil, and mozzarella cheese. Spoon sauce on top.

Repeat, layering beginning with eggplant, then basil, then cheese, then sauce.

Repeat, layering beginning with eggplant, then basil, then cheese, then sauce.

Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.

Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.

Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

Simple and full of flavor, this tomato sauce is a staple for any Italian dish! Use it for the Eggplant Parmesan recipe above or for any pasta recipe. This recipe is doubled already, making 12 servings, so you can freeze the other half for your next meal. Before you are tempted to take a shortcut with bottled sauce, check the label for sodium content. Most are very high but this one keeps sodium in check at a very low 7mg per serving plus it’s easy to make and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 26-oz packages of Pomi brand chopped tomatoes* (or other diced, no-salt-added, canned tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Nutrition Facts

12 servings

  • Calories 48
  • Fat 1g
  • Carbohydrates 8g
  • Fiber 2g
  • Protein 1g
  • Sodium 7mg

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large heavy pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook another 60 seconds.
  2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and basil and mash with a potato masher. Bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes cook down, about 45 to 50 minutes. Add pepper, to taste.

* I recommend using Pomi brand chopped tomatoes in this recipe. The flavor and texture easily surpasses other brands. Another bonus is that each half cup serving only has 5mg of sodium.

© 2014 Marcelle Bell

Comments

Marcelle Bell (author) on February 19, 2020:

Thanks for your comments, Liza! That sounds yummy to use eggplant in a curry. I will have to add that to my next curry. Thanks, again!

Liza from USA on February 13, 2020:

I love eggplant. I have had a dish very similar like this. An old Italian lady cooked while I was staying with her in Italy. In Malaysia we usually cook eggplant as curry and it is delicious to have with steamed white rice. Thank you for the recipe, Marcelle.

Marcelle Bell (author) on March 21, 2018:

Hi Lydia - Sorry but I have not published a cook book (as of yet) but you can find several of my recipes with my other articles published here. Simply click on my author name or picture and it will take you to my main page where I have some recipes listed in articles.

Lydia Burger on March 21, 2018:

Do you have a cook book?

Mary on January 30, 2017:

This was delicious. I served it with garlic butter pasta. Thank you.

Marcelle Bell (author) on January 29, 2016:

Thanks, Retromellie! My husband requests this recipe often. Be sure to use the tomato sauce recipe with it as this will really make this dish yummy. The sauce is the easiest part to make.

retromellie from Australia on January 29, 2016:

This looks amazing I will definitely give this a try as I have been looking for a healthy and tasty version of this recipie...thank you for sharing :)

Adrienne Lea Daniels from Columbus, Ohio on July 21, 2014:

I love recipes and you seem to have some really good ones here. Very nice!

Marcelle Bell (author) on July 17, 2014:

Thanks all! I appreciate your comments. Please let me know what you think when you make it. The sauce is wonderful too for plain pasta.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on July 16, 2014:

It's only eggplant but you made them look so gourmet. :) I'm pretty sure they are delicious as they look.

This is awesome! Voting up, pinning and sharing.

Annabel from Singapore on June 30, 2014:

wow, you had listed a great choice to make eggplant recipes

Michelle Ascani from Deep in the Heart of Texas on June 19, 2014:

I love eggplant!

Marcelle Bell (author) on June 16, 2014:

Thanks MPG! Please let me know what you think once you've had a chance to cook this at home. It's one of my husband's favorite meals I make!

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on June 16, 2014:

This is a great healthy version of eggplant parmesan, definitely sharing this one. I was taught how to make eggplant parmigiana by my mum but of course it is the whole egg, deep fried and heavily salted version. Giving this healthy one a try for dinner soon.

Marcelle Bell (author) on June 11, 2014:

Thanks, epbrooks! I love eggplant too.

Marcelle Bell (author) on June 10, 2014:

Thank you "grand old lady" and "better yourself"! I do plan to post many more healthy recipes. It's my passion to make over recipes but keep them tasty :).

Better Yourself from North Carolina on June 10, 2014:

Yum, this looks fantastic! We are always looking for healthier versions of yummy foods. Thanks for sharing!!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 10, 2014:

Never knew that a healthy eggplant dish could end up so unhealthy! Your recipe is a great alternative, and I'm pinning it:)

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on June 10, 2014:

I will definitely have to make this. I love eggplant and am always looking for the healthier way to cook it. Thanks for sharing!

Marcelle Bell (author) on June 10, 2014:

Thank you, Flourish! I make this dish often and my picky husband loves it! I'm always looking for ways to make a recipe more healthy while keeping it delicious.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 10, 2014:

This looks excellent, and your instructions and photos are great. Voted up and more, and sharing. I will be trying this!