I have stared at the description of “Eggplant Stacks” on the menu of our favorite Italian restaurant in the bucolic Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York for many years, but never ordered it. Why not? I love eggplant. I love mozzarella. And I LOVE tomatoes. Yet, there’s something about the name…”Eggplant Stacks”….that is just so unappealing to me. Now let’s call it as they would in Italy. “ Melanzane e mozzarella con tomato e basilica.” Now that sounds likes music! That I would order! Time after time, I’ve glanced at this on the appetizer section of the menu, and then order something else.
Recently a friend of mine told me she was making “eggplant stacks” for her family that evening. I was astounded that she used the same name as the restaurant. Of course, the ingredients were the same, and she convinced me that I would love it, no matter what it was called. I didn’t even have to write the recipe down on paper, as it couldn’t be easier. However, when she said it was as good as eggplant parmigiano I became suspicious, and then downright curious. I immediately went to the store and bought all the ingredients I needed. My family was now having “eggplant stacks” as well that evening.
I rather enjoyed preparing this dish. You slice the eggplant in rounds, coat in egg, then breadcrumbs and bake in the oven. You can do this ahead of time for sure. Then you just slice the tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange the stacks, top with basil and then bake again. It’s so pretty once assembled and baked just enough for the mozzarella to slowly melt down the sides a bit. By the look of it, as well as the aroma, I knew we were in for a treat.
So let me be honest and tell you that these eggplant stacks are absolutely delicious. They are pretty on the plate, and pass well on a platter as antipasto. As an appetizer or side dish, they are a great addition. Also, added to a delicious bowl of pasta in fresh tomato sauce (see archives), this is a real treat. Easy to prepare; pleasing to the eye; divine to the taste buds. A perfect recipe!
HOWEVER, let me just say, don’t try to pass this off as “as good as eggplant parmigiano.” Sorry. Not even close. You won’t fool anyone. But, it is delicious in it’s own right. The distinct flavors of the eggplant, the mozzarella and the tomatoes stand out more than in eggplant parmigiano because they stand alone, ever so slightly melded together. I like that, and I think you will too.
So let’s just call this for what it is. It is indeed a stack of breaded eggplant, mozzarella and tomatoes, topped with basil. Delicious in it’s simplicity. I especially love the lightness, and of course the combination of these ingredients can’t miss.
I will agree with my friend in that if you are craving eggplant parmigiano, this could possibly satisfy your taste. It’s less work, and yes, it’s probably less calories, but there’s nothing like the real thing (see the archives for my recipe for eggplant parmigiano). However, I really do like making this. Everyone loves it, and as I said already, these ingredients are just so wonderful together.
Also, if you have food issues amongst your guests, it’s easy to make half the eggplant with gluten free breadcrumbs. Or if dairy is a problem for some, you can easily use non-dairy mozzarella for some of the stacks. It’s a recipe that can easily accommodate food allergies.
I hope I have enticed you to try this recipe. I didn’t mean to put it down. I LOVE it. Please make it. Call it whatever you like. Just don’t try to pass it off as eggplant parmigiano, that’s all.
RECIPE: makes approximately 8 to 10 stacks, depending on size of eggplant
1 large eggplant or 2 medium, thickly sliced….a good 1/2 inch or so.
2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
8 ounces of mozzarella, thickly sliced
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (I recommend Italian panko breadcrumbs to make it crispy, or add plain panko to the Italian seasoned crumbs)
lots of fresh basil
3 TBSP grated Italian cheese, either Pecorino Romano or parmigiana.
olive oil cooking spray
olive oil for drizzle
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet pan with olive oil cooking spray.
- Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl, and place breadcrumbs in a second bowl
- Dip each side of the eggplant slices in the egg, then press into the breadcrumbs to coat each side. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the eggplant generously with the cooking spray.
- Bake 8 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn each slice and spray again. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool slightly (or let sit until ready to “stack”).
- To make the stacks, just place a slice of mozzarella on top of the eggplant, then the tomato. Sprinkle with some grated cheese and top with basil.
- Bake stacks until the cheese has slightly melted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm. Before serving, top each stack with fresh basil, and perhaps a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil.
*Note: I have thinned out some pesto sauce (see archives) with olive oil, and drizzled with this. You absolutely don’t need to drizzle anything. It’s just a suggestion.
**You can also double stack. Or, you can do as I do, eat two singles at one time.