This baked eggplant recipe is cheesy and spicy and frankly, much easier to make than that other eggplant recipe!
This easy eggplant recipe is similar to eggplant Parmesan, but the eggplant is baked, not fried.
Made with a spicy tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella, this spicy eggplant gratin is a perfect side dish for any main course. Of course, this could even be the main course!
Unlike eggplant Parmesan, this is actually considered an eggplant gratin.
So what is a gratin?
A gratin is just a fancy name for something baked in a shallow dish, that is then topped with grated cheese or breadcrumbs.
If making a gratin with crumbs, they are then drizzled with oil so the top becomes crusty and golden brown.
Gratins are often popped under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve there gorgeous exterior.
This eggplant gratin is no exception. Similar to Eggplant Parmesan in flavor, I love the fact that instead of frying eggplant slices, these eggplant cubes are baked.
How to Make this Easy Eggplant Recipe?
The tomato sauce is simply made and heartily spicy. However, if you choose you could use jarred tomato sauce Arrabiata style, and achieve something similar. It might not be quite as thick as homemade but you’d still have something to be proud of!
I love this spicy eggplant gratin that I’m sharing today. I’ve served it at parties and just to Manservant, and either way it is always a hit.
Maybe it’s the spiciness of the tomato sauce or the smokiness of the cheese, but whatever it is everyone always wants seconds.
As for the cheese…I only recommend the best. Use the best Parmesan you can afford and if you can find smoked mozzarella by all means use it.
I however, am not above using regular mozzarella and if you want a smoky flavor add a few drops of liquid smoke to the finished sauce. Really.
Fresh mozzarella is also good and gives an extra creaminess to the dish, but regular mozzarella give that chewy, stringy cheese kind of pizza quality to this easy baked eggplant.
I think it’s the smokiness of this spicy Italian eggplant gratin that makes this the perfect side dish to any grilled entree.
I made this easy eggplant recipe or casserole ahead of time and kept it well covered in the fridge for two days, before I baked it.
This delectable side dish turned out perfect and everyone was very pleased with the results. Honestly though, with a salad you could make this your meal…it’s just that I’m married to a man who thinks that a big piece of protein should be the star of every plate.
Do what you choose, but more importantly if you are an eggplant lover, be sure to make this. Your efforts will be rewarded with everyone asking for seconds!
I just finished planting my garden and I’m hoping that I get lots of eggplant. A few years ago I had over twenty on one plant. Last year some unnamed creature took most of them.
So keep your fingers crossed that this year he doesn’t come back, because I have lots of great eggplant recipes I’m dying to make!
(This post was originally published in May, 2018.)
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This spicy eggplant gratin is similar to Eggplant Parmesan, but the eggplant is baked, not fried. Made with a spicy tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella, this spicy eggplant gratin is a perfect side dish for any main course. Of course, this could even be the main course!
3 lbs eggplant, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 c plus 3 T olive oil
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t crushed red pepper
30 basil leaves
2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
6 oz smoked mozzarella or regular mozzarella
3 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated (1 cup)
Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Divide eggplant chunks between the prepared baking sheets and toss each sheet with 2 T of oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread into a single layer. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Keep oven on.
Meanwhile heat 1/4 of the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, season with salt and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until softened. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and 5 of the basil leaves and cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, squeezing each one with your hand and dropping into pot. Stir occasionally, smashing tomatoes as you go. Simmer about 45 minutes until sauce has thickened. There should be about 6 c of sauce.
Spread 1 c of the sauce in the bottom of a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Top with half of the eggplant and the remaining basil leaves. Drizzle with 1 T of the olive oil. Spread 2 c of the sauce on top and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Drizzle with 1 T of olive oil. Top with remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and 1 T of olive oil.
Bake the gratin in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from oven and preheat the broiler to high. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c of Parmesan over the top and broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. (If this has been refrigerated before baking, please bring to room temperature before placing on oven.)
A great recipe from Food and Wine.
Keywords: eggplant gratin, baked eggplant, easy eggplant recipe, Italian eggplant, eggplant casserole recipe