A Lenten meal idea: eggplant

Last night I made melanzane alla parmigiana, that’s eggplant.

I found eggplant on sale for $1.39 each and thought I could get a couple meals out of them.

I also wanted to see how fast I could put it together.  So, I started at 5:20 pm by turning on the oven to 350F.

Then I started prepping the eggplant be peeling them.

Slice ’em up.  You can do them lengthwise if you want.

Brush olive oil on them.

Load them onto a metal sheet and put them in the oven until they turn brown.  I eventually turned on the broiler to high.  I prefer to do this on the grill, but mine is all covered up for the winter.  This is a good way to get some of the moisture out of the eggplant so your dish won’t turn to soup. 

With the eggplant in the oven I turned to the sauce.  Garlic, obviously.

Chop some onion.  Doesn’t have to be too fine.  I usually start the onion first, get it going, and then add the garlic.  Do NOT "fry" garlic until it gets brown and bitter.  GHUK.

I used a can of whole tomatoes.  Dump them in and break them up with your spoon or whatever you are using.

I have a nice little basil plant growing away by a window.

Try using scissors for leaves like this.  I often use scissors instead of a knife.

In it goes with a bit of salt.  I have this cooking at a pretty good pace, to reduce it.

So, the sauce is going and it is time for …. grrr… no bread crumbs!

I threw some old bread into the oven with the eggplant for a couple minutes to dry it out, toast it even drier than it was, and put it into my little food processor.  Zip it around for a while. 

I was a little dubious about the use of pumpernickel, but that was mostly what I had.

We’ll see how it turns out in the end.

I also put in some oregano.  Why into the crumbs and not the sauce?  I dunno.  I just did it that way.

I will need lots of ground parmigiano.  Before I did the bread crumbs, I zipped this up in the gizmo and put it aside in a bowl.  I break it into small chunks before putting it into the food processor.

Out come the eggplants.  They could be browner, I guess, but I am moving forward anyway.

Save the rinds of the cheese for making soup.

Start lining the bottom of a pan.  I am using a glass, rectangular oven safe dish.


Add a layer of sauce.



Crumbs… see how dark these are?  Looks like coffee grounds.

Not sure about this…. but.. it’s what I have.

Another cheese.  I like a bit of a soft cheese which will melt.  I had some fontina in the fridge.  I helped a piece into the freezer and then grated it while waiting to get the sauce tightened up.  You don’t really need to grate it, I suppose.  Just put it on in slices.  It melts anyway, so who cares.

Another layer.

Into the oven it goes.  I put some aluminum foil under it, since it wound up being pretty full.

Since pretty much everything in it is cooked, you can vary the length you leave it in.  This was in for about 40 minutes, I think.

In the meantime I got the kitchen cleaned up and cut some parsley.

Plated at 6:35 pm.

1:15 from start to completion and the kitchen is clean.  Without rushing.

The bread crumbs really gave the concoction a dark look and dark flavor. 

This absolutely would have had to be paired with a red wine, rather than a white.  Had the bread crumbs been less assertive, a dry white would do.

I gave this a B+ because I am unconvinced that the dark crumbs were the right match.  They are all I had.  Perhaps after warming some up today I will have a different experience of the flavors.   This sort of food changes overnight.

Were I to invite Fr. Longenecker for a non-ferraiuolo supper, I’d go with the normal bread crumbs. 

You could make this ahead of time and put it in the freezer.  Actually, making a double batch would not take much more time and effort and you could have another whole meal, or several, on hand.  Thaw and bake.

So… a large can of whole tomatoes, two eggplants, some old bread, a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, parmigiano and fontina.  I am guessing less than $10. This will give me four large servings/meals.  Say, $2.50 a plate.

A good Friday or Lenten meal, unless you also abstain from dairy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Eric says:


    What does eggplant taste like? What is the texture after it is cooked?

    I’m not really into eating squash and zucchini so I’m not sure I’d like it. Therefore, I’m afraid of paying for it at a restaurant and my wife has never cooked it before. And it would be a supreme mistake to ask me to cook one. I’m the master of the grill, not the oven.

  2. Denis Crnkovic says:

    A nice Lenten suggestion! I usually dry my eggplant on paper towels first. Does the high broiler heat really pull out enough moisture? The dark breadcrumbs are an intriguing innovation. Was the bread made from a sourdough starter? If so, it seems to me that you’d have a bit too much sour for the eggplant + the acid from the tomatoes. Looks like it would go well with a good, thick Sangiovese.

  3. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Looks good. Got any ideas for folks who get indigestion from cooked tomato?

    Re eggplant for Dr Eric: If you like battered fried squashes you will like battered fried eggplant. I’m surprised, if you’re master of the grill, you haven’t tried roasting all three items. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and some herbal sprinkle of your choice and roast away. Nummy. And roasted eggplants come out all creamy tasting.

  4. Steve K. says:

    Man, that looks delicious. I will file away this suggestion for Lent, especially since my wife loves eggplant.

    Father, do you buy kitchen gear at Williams-Sonoma? I think I recognize most of those implements from its stock… [Nope.]

  5. Fr. Christensen says:

    A non-ferraiuolo supper, eh? That makes me think I should host a ferraiuolo-mandatory supper. It would be a grand time.

  6. PaulJason says:


    I normally salt my eggplant and let it sit for about an hour before I cook it. It seems to draw out water and that bitter taste. Have you ever done this?

  7. Will says:

    But Father, but Father, don’t tell me you use packaged bread crumbs! Good bread makes for good crumbs. The packaged stuff will never live up to the fresh stuff. [Did you read the part where I made the bread crumbs? o{]:¬) ]

  8. Mary Rose says:

    Wow, Fr. Z, that looked delicious! I can see how the dark bread would have tilted the dish to the stronger side. However, overall it looked very yummy! Can’t beat fresh basil. To me, fresh herbs makes the dish. Would this be considered zucchini lasagna? [Not if it doesn’t have pasta layered in.] I’ve had that dish before but I can’t remember if ricotta cheese was used or not.

    I love zucchini. It brings back memories of my mother battering slices of them and frying batches of them in a pan. A friend years ago had an explosion of zucchini in his garden and gave me a few. (They were huge!) I sliced some, dried, and battered/fried. Then I found this recipe, which I’ll share with you. Very delicious in the summer paired with grilled meat. I sprinkled some fresh Parmesan on it before baking because I’m crazy about Parmesan. (and Pecorino Romano) Mangi bene!

    Zucchini and Potato Bake

    2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into
    large pieces
    4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large
    1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and
    1 clove garlic, sliced
    1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
    1/4 cup olive oil
    paprika to taste
    salt to taste
    ground black pepper to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

    2. In a medium baking pan, toss together the zucchini, potatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, bread crumbs, and olive oil. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper.

    3. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and lightly brown.

  9. Daniel Muller says:

    A non-ferraiuolo supper, eh? That makes me think I should host a ferraiuolo-mandatory supper.

    You would need just one for the reader or preacher, but everyone would have to take turns at the lectern. Could a layman stand in for a subdeacon? ;-)

  10. JM says:

    We actually make a nearly identical eggplant dish. It is good. We actually leave the skin and eat it to.

  11. Mark says:


    You should really consider writting a cookbook. Perhaps it could be titled: “Father Z’s Culinary Delights.” or something clever and catchy.

  12. RBrown says:

    I normally salt my eggplant and let it sit for about an hour before I cook it. It seems to draw out water and that bitter taste. Have you ever done this?
    Comment by PaulJason

    Yes, I have.

    I’m not big on Melanzane alla Parm, but I do like eggplant dipped in egg, then cracker crumbs, and fried.

    Some where around here I have a recipe for Penne with Eggplant. It uses tomato sauce and lot of cumin.

  13. Steve K. says:

    I have an eggplant recipe from my mom that I loved as a kid and make it occasionally. Slice the eggplant very thin, brush olive oil on the faces, sprinkle them with thyme, oregano and a little paprika and pepper, then bake them in the oven. End result is what my dad calls “eggplant chips” – very tasty.

  14. CB says:

    Father, everything you make sounds good to me, but I don’t think I have seen a single dish that my husband would even try. I would love to try cooking eggplant, but I don’t want to be eating the leftovers for days, in addition to having to cook separate meals for him.

  15. TJM says:

    Chef Emeril, move over! Tom

  16. Franzjosf says:

    Another eggplant Lenten dish:

    You can guess the amounts

    Eggplant, pealed, cut into thick strips about 3 inches long
    sliced mushrooms
    chopped onion
    chopped fresh parsley
    vegetable stock (you can use beef stock outside of Lent)
    heavy cream
    salt and pepper
    linguini, or your favorite pasta

    1. Salt the eggplant and put in a kitchen towel for at least a half hour, to draw out the moisture; dry.

    2. In a large skillet saute the onion, mushrooms, and eggplant in butter, adding pepper and a little salt.

    3. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook for a minute or two.

    4. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil to thicken, then lower heat.

    5. Add the cream and let it heat briefly and adjust seasoning.

    6. Pour over pasta and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

    Serve with salad and hot rolls or a baguette.

    (The mushroom/eggplant combination my suprise some, but it is common in eastern Europe.)

  17. Will says:

    Fr. Z said: “[Did you read the part where I made the bread crumbs? o{]:¬) ]”
    Yes, Father, but I was referring to this: “So, the sauce is going and it is time for …. grrr… no bread crumbs!”

    I assumed that meant you were casting around for a can of Progresso crumbs or the like.

    And Fransjosf, tha recipe looks like a winner. I may give it a spin in a few weeks.

    [I sometimes take bread and spin them up and store them away against the time I need them. This time, nothing.]

  18. Al says:

    I would definitely buy a Fr Z Ferraiuolo cook-book!

    A little tip: if you leave the tinned tomatoes whole while they’re cooking the seeds can’t get out and sour the sauce. Break them up once they’re cooked and ready for the next stage. You’ll get a much clearer-flavoured, sweeter sauce for it.

  19. J. Wong says:


    Thanks for sharing. I will try it this weekend. I will substitute the dark bread crumbs with a mixture of white bread crumbs and panko.

  20. What does eggplant taste like? What is the texture after it is cooked?

    Eggplant tastes like … eggplant. It really doesn’t taste like anything else. Mushrooms maybe, but that’s a stretch. The texture is like zucchini, only rubberier.

    They are all I had.

    You seem awfully defensive. ;->

  21. chironomo says:

    Yumma Yumma…

    We have Eggplant Parmigiana frequently (it is cheap and tasty too!). We can get Florida grown eggplant at the Saturday morning farmers market 2 for a dollar! We have made it in much the same way as you have, but there is also the “Southern Variation” that uses fried eggplant… I know, but this is the Deep South…and it is quite good!

  22. Mac User says:

    Very fine dish. I wonder why you peeled the aubergine, however. Is that usual? I think the black skin is cool. [i just did. When I put them on the grill, I usually leave the skin. I don’t make many things the same way twice.]

    By the way, is it true that melanzana comes from malum insanum = unhealthy apple?

  23. mwa says:

    Not Getting Creaky,
    you can try using pesto in place of tomato sauce. I also slice eggplant thin, top each with a brush of pesto and bake at high temp until crispy on edges; serve with fresh tomato.

  24. dcs says:

    I’m not really into eating squash and zucchini so I’m not sure I’d like it.

    Eggplant isn’t a squash – it’s a nightshade. And unlike other nightshades like peppers and tomatoes, eggplant has a flavor worthy of the name.

  25. r7blue1pink says:

    Always, always salt the eggplant for at least an hour to get the moisture and bitterness out of it.

    It is a wonderful addition to any meal.. Im making use of it today at $.99 at out local italiano store. Im making an italian type stew with zucchini, portabello,fresh tomato and eggplant with some diced beef and pork. No recipe, just making it up as I go. going to use some fresh gnocci to go along with it.. We’ll see how it turns out…

    Im thinking maybe I’ll set up a blog just so we can all share recipes..and of course linkback to Father Z’s.. ya think? anyone care to join me in maintaing it??


  26. Vincenzo says:

    :-O~ Looks so incredibly delicious. I love eggplant! These are all of my favorite things – parmigiano (was just nibbling on that last night), basil, garlic, olive oil.. onion.. going to have to make some soon.

  27. Emily says:

    This looks GREAT. I am not even an eggplant person (bad eggplant cooking experiences) but I will have to try this.

  28. Maureen says:

    If you’re worried that somebody won’t eat eggplant, you can always throw it in the blender (like the Greeks do) or chop it into itty-bitty pieces and use it that way.

    Eggplant’s good stuff.

  29. memoriadei says:

    Thanks, Father, for the recipe! Oh, oh, oh, it was delicious, I am sure!

  30. Coletta says:

    Looks yummy! Also like the recipe for the Zucchini and Potato Bake.
    thank you.

  31. John Enright says:

    Stop with this, Father! You’re teasing us! PUBLISH A COOKBOOK!

  32. John Enright says:

    (head hanging low) Sorry for yelling, Father, but you have talent beyond the priesthood. I think that a cookbook by you would be a great success!

  33. Andrew says:


    You look at the photos on this blog of the cooking, and it immediately makes your mouth water.

    Fr Z, stop tantalizing us, with your culinary prowess.

    But the photos are absolutely terrific. I can devour a plate of lasagna any time.

    Perhaps you can have it ready for me any time I visit Sabine Farm. Only kidding!

  34. Timothy says:

    I’m growing basil right now, using my 3-pod AeroGarden, a hydroponic system. After I’m done with the herbs, I’ll be growing tomato plants — right in my apartment! [Very cool.]

  35. Jasmine says:

    Hi Father Z!

    Apparently, Jennifer Willits, from The Catholic Next Door radio show on The Catholic Channel, had something similar to this at an Italian restaurant after her baby girl was overdue for about a week, and she gave birth within 48 hours of eating it!

    Seems that this particular dish has become some sort of a legend at the restaurant. http://www.scalinis.com/Bambino.htm

    I was quite surprised and a little amused when I saw you posting this ;)


  36. Paul M says:


    Have you seen this site yet? http://catholiccuisine.blogspot.com/ I just stumbled across it.

    Thanks for this recipe. My wife loves eggplant and I think I’ll surprise her this weekend.

    Btw, regarding Perhaps after warming some up today I will have a different experience of the flavors. This sort of food changes overnight. Do you have a follow-up report?

    Thanks again.

  37. joy says:

    I think it’s great that you used the bread you had around. I substitute like that a lot, and most of the time the results are fine.
    Waving the dish in front of the Zcam was priceless!

  38. Mary says:

    Did that whole block of Parmigiano-Reg. go in? I know here in TX the groceries have it for $10 a pound. Am I being ripped off (as you estimate the whole shebang at $10), or did you only use about a quarter cup, Father?

  39. Gregor says:

    Thanks for sharing, Father, I will certainly try that.

  40. Agnes B.Bullock says:

    Will definitely be trying this. Walking on water and can cook too- Father,you are a priest of hidden talents!!!!!

  41. mrsmontoya says:

    I am working at home today and am making bread – real home-made, manually kneaded, living yeast bread.

  42. Anna Jean says:

    That was a wonderful presentation, Father! We might just try that!

  43. Hanna says:

    I like to dip the eggplant in egg wash and then in breadcrumbs mixed half and half with Parmesan. Then I fry the eggplant with olive oil. Oops I think I drooled on my keyboard. The only problem with this dish is that I don’t feel like I’m doing penance…at all.

  44. Sandy says:

    This time I am writing down the recipe!! The pictures add so much. See Father, we still want a cookbook :)

  45. irishgirl says:

    That’s making me hungry!

  46. Melanie says:

    Always looking for delicious meals, especially for Lent.

  47. Dawn says:

    I finally made this recipe tonight. Yum!

    Finding (decent) eggplant in North Dakota during the winter months for under $2.50 ea. is a challenge. Yesterday I found some for $1.49 and they actually weren’t already rotten on the shelf. Score! ;-)

    Anyway, it was well worth the wait. What a great meal. Thanks for sharing your culinary skills and recipe ideas with us.

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