My very first job in a restaurant kitchen was as the pastry chef for a small mom-and-pop Italian restaurant. How I got that job with no experience is a story for another day. But after working there for about 6 months, I moved to working on the hotline part-time. One of my responsibilities was to make the batches of eggplant parmesan and lasagna. I loathed doing the eggplant because this meant I had to stand over a scalding rondo pan of hot oil and fry rounds of eggplant for what felt like days. Later, when I was the executive chef in another restaurant and would somehow end up with an extra case of eggplant, I never forgot how much I hated all that frying and came up with a much healthier version of the dish, grilling the eggplant instead.
I haven’t made this for over a decade, but lately, it’s been on my mind, along with the ever-present need to use up excess zucchini from my garden. Recently, a couple of commenters on the blog mentioned using zucchini in a lasagna-like dish so when I decided to make the eggplant parm, I thought I might as well toss some in there too.
One of the nice things about this dish is that while it does have a fair amount of cheese, I think it’s pretty healthy because the eggplant isn’t fried and thus does not soak up a ton of oil. Grilling the vegetables also does two things; removes excess water so you don’t end up with a “soupy” dish, and the little bit of char on the eggplant skin adds a nice bit of smoky flavor to the dish.
A healthier version of the traditional eggplant parmesan
Course: Main Course
Keyword: eggplant, zucchini
6ozgrated parmesan cheese
6ozgrated mozzarella cheese
2-3Tbsp.fresh herbsI used basil, thyme, parsley, and oregano, chopped
Pre-heat the grill. I used my gas grill outside, but you could also use a grill pan on the stove. I have an All-Clad LTD Grille Pan and I use it all the time, especially when I want to grill something small and quick. But for a batch of vegetables this size, grilling outside was faster, easier, and cooler!
Cut off the ends of the zucchini and slice lengthwise, about 3/8" thick. Cut off the end of the eggplant and slice lengthwise, about 3/8" thick.
Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and grill until tender.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To assemble the dish, put a couple of tablespoons of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish and spread around to cover the bottom of the pan.
Put down a layer of grilled zucchini slices. On top, add some crumbled ricotta (about 4 oz), parmesan cheese (2 oz), mozzarella cheese (2 oz), and dot on top more tomato sauce. Sprinkle on some of the chopped mixed herbs.
Repeat the process with a layer of grilled eggplant. For the top, I had just enough of zucchini and eggplant to alternate to make a 3rd layer. Top with remaining sauce, cheese, and herbs.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil after 30 min and let the top brown, about 5-10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest 5-10 minutes; it's easier to cut when it cools slightly.