Make Robyn's Eggplant Parmesan With Spaghetti And Gravy!
[Editrix's note: Robyn talks about "gravy," by which she apparently means "spaghetti sauce." She is Italian, so I guess we will defer to her? Or is she being weird? She is weird sometimes. Guess there is no way for any of us to ever know.]
Do you have the day off? Are you my Nonnie? Then why not celebrate by making what I made for dinner this weekend, which is eggplant parmesan with gravy and spaghetti. Gravy is what Italian-Americans from certain parts of the US call tomato sauce, specifically the kind that is made with meat or meat drippings (as opposed to marinara, which is not). No one really knows why and it probably doesn't matter!
One Italian sausage (I guess, depending on size. I got a huge one so I just did one, if you have smaller ones, use two or three. Bacon fat or salt pork is also an option! Or, if you have none of those — anchovy paste.)
Carrots, Celery and Onions (shallots if you're fancy) chopped up pretty small but not fully minced
Crushed Red Pepper
3 cans crushed tomatoes
1 stick of butter or a 1/2 cup of cream
Chianti (or any red wine, I guess, I just happened to have Chianti on hand)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pour some olive oil into the pot and heat it up. Stick a fork into the sausage in a couple places, then brown it in said pot. If it's a big one, you can cut it up (once it's browned so it's not spilling out all over the place), if they're smaller then I guess you could use two or three. Throw the red pepper, garlic, carrots, celery and onions in there and cook til translucent and aromatic.
Then, turn the oven off and dump all your crushed tomatoes in there, and turn it back on medium until the sauce gets hot.
Bust open a bottle of chianti, and dump some of that in to reduce the sauce, and also pour yourself a glass. Then add the cream or butter, probably about 1/4-1/2 a cup. Add salt and pepper to taste and then put the whole thing over on the back burner and let it simmer.
Now you're gonna do your eggplant!
2 Eggplants (or one GIANT eggplant)
Can of Italian Breadcrumbs
Bottle of vegetable oil
Peel your eggplants with the peeler thingie. Then you're gonna cut slices of the eggplant with a regular (v sharp) knife — and you've gotta do it so they're SUPER thin. Like, as thin as you can possibly get them. Almost paper thin. That is the most important thing, because thick eggplant is kinda gross, tbh.
Salting the eggplant is, I think, optional. Usually I don't bother if it's a nice eggplant. But if you're gonna do that, you're gonna wanna spread your eggplant across a bunch of baking sheets/plates/whatever, and then shake some salt on it. Then go sit down, finish a glass of wine, have a cigarette, do whatever. I usually do one eggplant at a time, btw, and do this twice. I honestly just don't have enough space to do both at once.
After you chill for a bit, wash it off in the sink with cold water.
Pile all your eggplant onto one plate, then grab three more bowls and another plate. Crack the eggs in the bowl and whisk, put the breadcrumbs in a different bowl, and the Wondra flour in another. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, then the egg, then dip them in the breadcrumbs, and put them on the other plate. Eventually the breadcrumbs are gonna get clumpy and gross, so take the clumpy gross parts out and replace with new breadcrumbs.
So now you've got your big plate of eggplant that's all breaded and ready to go. You're gonna take your frying pan, heat it up for a minute, then pour your vegetable oil in. I try and do enough so it's gonna sort of cover the eggplant slices.
Set up a baking sheet or whatever covered in a sheet of paper towels.
Throw as many slices in as you can fit in, let them simmer for a bit, check the bottoms to see if they've gotten light brown. If they're brown, flip them. Let those simmer a bit, check to see if the bottoms are brown, if they are, throw them onto the sheet with the paper towels. Keep repeating, when you've filled up the sheet, put another paper towel over the slices and start again.
Bring the gravy back to the front burner and add seasoning to taste, and and figure out what it needs to make it the way you like it. If it's too sharp tasting, add cream or butter. If it's not savory enough, add anchovy paste or maybe a little rosemary. If it's not sweet enough, add more basil.
Now you're going to get out a casserole dish and a ladle.
Ladle some gravy onto the bottom of the casserole dish, and then layer your eggplant on there, and some mozzarella (NOT A LOT, just a sprinkling), and some parmesan. Repeat until you're out of eggplant, and then sprinkle a lot more cheese of both kinds on the top. Throw it in the oven at about 400.
Have some more wine, make spaghetti. When the spaghetti is done, check on your eggplant to see if the cheese is all melted, which it probably should be, so take it out or leave it in for a few minutes if it's not. Wash off your spaghetti, put it in a bowl with the rest of your gravy and serve. Oh, also probably put the sausage on a different plate or save for sandwiches.
Eat, and also drink more wine, and demand everyone praise you.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse