This (somewhat) healthy baked eggplant parmesan recipe is my improved version of the Eggplant Parmesan with Spinach recipe from Vegetarian Times. As with most Vegetarian Times recipes, I found the original version to be bland. But with a few changes, this healthy baked eggplant parmesan recipe has become a summertime keeper. I say “somewhat healthy” because obviously there are healthier things you could be eating, but as eggplant parm goes, this is about as healthy as it gets.
I grew up in Connecticut around some of the best Italian restaurants and delis outside of Italy. A vegetarian since fifteen, I’ve eaten a lot of memorable eggplant parmesan. I still love traditional eggplant parmesan with its heavy layers of fried breaded eggplant and tons of stringy mozzarella. If I ever go back the States, it’s one of the first things I’d want to eat, along with a couple of Taco Bell bean burritos and a Red Robin Whisky River BBQ Gardenburger, fries and campfire sauce.
But I don’t generally eat like that, so this lighter, more modern and healthy baked eggplant parmesan recipe with spinach and just enough cheese is much more in line with how I eat everyday.
The main differences between my version and the Vegetarian Times version of this recipe are:
- I salt my eggplant and let it sit for at least an hour to draw out excess water, which makes it more tender and less bitter.
- Their spinach situation is a bit faffy. I use pre-chopped frozen spinach and add it straight to the skillet when preparing the filling, any excess water cooks off quickly and saves me the hassle of a towel-lined sieve and chopping. Who has time for such nonsense?
- I use herbed cream cheese instead of reduced fat cream cheese. We’re only dealing with one ounce for the entire recipe, so who cares?
- Panko? Not happening in Denmark. I use homemade whole grain breadcrumbs, which make a light and crispy coating.
- Why a half cup of Parmesan in the coating? Just add a couple tablespoons to the spinach mixture and use the rest of the calories on that whole fat herbed cream cheese without sacrificing flavor.
- This recipe is only as good as the sauce you choose. I use homemade pizza sauce, which is full of flavor, not to mention thick, so it stays where I put it.
- I use fresh mozzarella in place of shredded mozzarella.
- I use an oil atomizer instead of cooking spray to spray the breaded eggplant before baking. Aerosol-propelled ingredients freak me out.
Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
2 medium-size eggplants
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup + 1 T breadcrumbs, divided
9 ounces (250g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 ounce (30g) herbed cream cheese
2 T grated Parmesan
1 cup marinara/pizza sauce
8-9 ounces (250g) fresh mozzarella
Cut the eggplants into ¾-inch slices, sprinkle them generously with salt, and leave them to sweat for at least an hour, but the longer the better. Rinse and pat them dry.
Crack the egg into a shallow dish and beat it. Add the flour to another dish, and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs to a third dish. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs; press the breadcrumbs into the eggplant so they stick. Spray the breaded eggplant on both sides with oil/cooking spray, and arrange them on a greased baking sheet.
Bake the eggplant in a preheated 375 degree (190°C) oven for 12 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crispy, then flip them over and bake them for another 12 minutes, or until the other side is brown and crispy, too.
While the eggplant is baking, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a bit of olive oil, then cook the spinach until all of the excess moisture has evaporated. Stir in the cream cheese, Parmesan, and 1 T breadcrumbs and cook the mixture until it’s heated through and thick.
Spread each eggplant slice with a bit of sauce, top with a mound of the spinach mixture and a slice of fresh mozzarella. Put it back in the oven and bake it for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted to perfection.
I love the lightness of this recipe, so while pasta is an obvious accompaniment, I never serve it with pasta. It’s really not filling enough on its own, so I recommend a Caesar salad to go with. Or serve it at room temperature with some bruschetta and red wine.