Revisiting Rome: Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce

eggplant parm 6
Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

It was our third day in Rome and we were exhausted. And hungry.

St. Peter's Basilica
The start of a very long walking day.

My mom is a notoriously picky eater. As the group leader, I was unofficially tasked with not only guiding us through the city, but finding affordable, non-touristy places to eat that would make my picky mom and equally picky sister, happy.

We got lucky this day.

Waiting for lunch in front of the Pantheon. Doesn’t she look happy?

My family begged me to take a lunch break at one of the cafes in front of the Pantheon. I looked at it skeptically.

“This is a tourist trap!” I declared.

Never underestimate the power of hunger and the promise of beautiful scenery to go with your meal.

My mom ordered eggplant parmesan. It was the only thing she ate with gusto the entire trip.

Although my family and I enjoy exploring restaurants, we prefer home-cooked meals. We rented an apartment in Rome and cooked most of our meals during the week with groceries we’d purchased from a local market.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world, but it made me happy to see my mom enjoy this meal with the Pantheon in the background. You really can’t beat that.

Five years later, I wanted to recreate that meal for Mother’s Day albeit without the ancient architecture circling us. I also decided to give it a healthy makeover.

When I surprised my mom with her lunch yesterday, she beamed and gave me a hug and a kiss.

Mission accomplished. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

Serving 4

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced across
  • 2-3 cups of panko (whole wheat if available)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsps grated parmigiano reggiano, separated
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 28oz cans no salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried italian oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil

Optional side salad

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Prep 2 shallow bowls, one with beaten egg whites (you can add a little bit of water to thin this out) and the other with panko and 1 tbsp of grated parmigiano. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Dip each slice of eggplant in egg white mixture, then panko, making sure to coat all sides with crumbs. Place on sheet evenly and then spray oil across the top. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping over halfway through.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

2. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tbsp of EVOO in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic for 45 seconds-1 minute (please don’t burn the garlic! you just want to infuse the oil). Add the tomatoes, paste and seasonings, except for fresh basil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove lid and stir in half a handful of chopped fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

3. Increase oven temp to 425ºF. In a glass baking dish, spoon tomato sauce across the bottom. Place the baked eggplant slices in a layer. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese and sprinkle 1 tbsp parmiggiano. Spoon more tomato sauce across the top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

4. Serve 3 slices of eggplant with a side salad of spinach and tomatoes. Sprinkle a little bit of EVOO  and chopped fresh basil over the top. Prego! Homemade healthy goodness.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

This would go perfectly with a side of whole wheat spaghetti if you’re looking for something heartier.

What I love about making a big batch of tomato sauce (and wasn’t that recipe so easy?!), is that I can save the rest for another day. Why buy a jar of sauce when you can make your own without all of the added sugar and preservatives?

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

We sat at our old kitchen table. There were no fancy table linens or 1,000 year old temples or old Italian men playing accordions nearby. It was just us, eating together at home. And I’ll never forget it.

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day?

What’s your favorite meatless Italian dish?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Top 3 Healthy Cinco de Mayo Dishes to Spice Up Your Meatless Monday Fiesta

Like St. Patricks Day, Cinco de Mayo is one of those holidays that we take seriously. As in, we find the yummiest food (and not a few drinks) to celebrate another country’s culture for the day without really having any idea what the holiday is about.

Salud! courtesy PartyCity.com
Salud!
courtesy PartyCity.com

These fiestas aren’t always so healthy though. Between the cheesy dips and the chips and the fried taquitos, you’ll find yourself overloading on empty calories and saturated fats. No bueno.

Look at all that cheese! Photo courtesy galleryhip.com
Look at all that cheese!
Photo courtesy galleryhip.com

It’s great that Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year because this gives us an opportunity to change up that fiesta menu to incorporate some of the incredible flavors of true Mexican cuisine without throwing in all of those fatty cheeses and sauces we love north of the border.

Bright, colorful, and delicious. Traditional Mexican cuisine is much lighter and far more nutritious than what’s been adapted as part of fast food culture here in the US. There are many ways to incorporate healthy dishes into your fiesta menu that’s true to the roots of Mexican food culture.

photo courtesy hetmanphotography.com
photo courtesy hetmanphotography.com

Mexican restaurants all over New York were crammed with patrons looking to indulge in a bit of tacos and margaritas action this weekend. But there’s no need to join the crowd when you can have your own healthy fiesta at home!

Here are my top 3 Mexican-inspired recipes that will keep you meatless this Monday without any chance of getting Montezuma’s revenge.

You know what I’m talking about.

¡Buen Provecho! Note: Sombrero optional.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt Avocado Dressing

I LOOOOOOOVE quinoa; not just for it’s texture and flavor but also because a small amount with go a long way. You can make a large batch and throw in whatever you like, such as this southwestern style dish with black beans, peppers, and jicama.

Sweet Potato Hash with Homemade Guacamole and Egg Over Easy

Breakfat of Paleo Champions

Looking to jump start your day? I made this dish after a grueling workout and it remains my go-to whenever I’m starving, want something packed with flavor, and filling. Plus, is there anything better than guacamole? I think not.

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean & Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

Ah, the humble taco. I shared this recipe a few weeks ago and it remains one of my top Meatless Monday dishes to date. Pairing sweet potato with black beans is a standard for me (see above recipe) and this spicy version with crunchy cabbage and lemony cilantro is sure to keep you happy and full. Two of my favorite things.

 

What are your favorite Mexican dishes?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

 

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Golden Beet and Radish Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus + BONUS EARTH DAY SMOOTHIE RECIPE!

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

10 minutes. That’s what it took to put this beautiful salad together. 10. Minutes.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

Pan-seared asparagus. Doesn’t that sound so yummy? I can feel my stomach rumbling already.

And then you’ve got these beautiful golden beets. I’ve only ever had beets that were boiled or roasted. It was a little scary to go for them completely raw here, but I realized how silly that was.

For this week’s special Earth Day edition of my Meatless Monday series, I wanted to feature a quick, simple, nutritious, and most importantly, TASTY, salad that wouldn’t leave any sort of waste.

Beets and radishes pack a nutritious punch:

  • Beets are high in folate, manganese, potassium and fiber that help promote cardiovascular health, lowers your risk of cancer, and proper functioning of the brain.
  • Radishes are a relative of arugula and both are members of the cruciferous family which boasts cancer-fighting benefits, digestive health, and heart health.

When bought fresh, radishes and beets come with the greens attached. People typically hack off those leafy green tops and trash them. Note to the world:

DON’T THROW THE GREENS AWAY!

Not only are those greens edible, they’re filled with more nutritional benefits than the roots themselves. Radish greens contain much more protein, vitamin C and calcium than the small red bulbs.

Consider using them interchangeably with greens you’re more familiar with, like spinach or kale.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusSomething important to keep in mind though is that you MUST soak these greens at least two or three times before using them. They’re covered in dirt in almost every nook and cranny. We don’t want to eat that.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusIn an effort to go green by eating my greens, I’m sharing TWO recipes here using both the roots and leaves in different ways. I saved the beet greens for a saute later this week. Maybe I’ll make some tacos out of them? Now…there’s an idea.

Golden Beet & Radish Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

Servings: 2

  • 4 cups of fresh arugula, rinsed
  • 1 large (or 2 small) fresh golden beets, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 radishes, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), sliced thinly
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus spears, cut into thirds
  • ½ cup of garbanzo beans, (if using canned beans, make sure to rinse and drain first)
  • 2 tbsps goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic glaze or vinegar (try to go for the glaze if available)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Prep all veggies, by soaking beets and radishes (greens too!), and slicing thinly with either a mandoline or very sharp knife.

2. In a small bowl, mix asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high flame. Once hot, add the asparagus and spread evenly across the pan. Allow it to cook on one side for 3-4 minutes or until they start to brown. Flip over and cook on the other side. You want to make sure they sear but don’t burn.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

3. Prepare salad in a large serving bowl. Add arugula, sliced beets and radishes, beans, crumbled goat cheese, and seared asparagus. Toss together and presto- you’re done!

Earth Day 5

BONUS RECIPE!

MANGO PINEAPPLE RADISH GREENS SMOOTHIE

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup of frozen mango
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • 2 tbsps hemp protein powder (you can sub in your favorite protein or flax seeds, chia seeds, etc)
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 2 cups radish greens, soaked 3 times (so much dirt trapped in there!) and drained

Blend well together and you’ve got yourself a powerful nutrient-packed smoothie. And pat yourself on the back for not wasting any part of that produce by throwing it away.

Earth Day 7

Looking for more radish or beet greens recipes? Check out these yummy ideas:

What do you do with your greens?

How are you going green for Earth Day?

Take part in the Meatless Monday Thunderclap by pledging here!

By taking the Meatless Monday pledge this Earth Day, you’ll:

  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

(Shared from Meatless Monday Earth Day initiative)

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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