Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana

Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana

Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana is an incredibly delicious Italian meal. Eggplant slices are breaded, fried until crispy, and then baked with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. It’s an incredible vegetarian dish to make for dinner.

copycat Olive Garden eggplant parmigiana, pasta, and marinara on a platter.

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What Makes Eggplant Parmigiana From the Olive Garden So Good? 

Eggplant Parmigiana is one of those meals that has no right to be so delicious. It’s vegetarian, after all. But even diehard carnivores love the contrast of taste and textures that the dish offers. It’s an Italian staple enjoyed for generations.

The earthy eggplant works amazingly well with the tang of the tomato sauce, while the crispy coating and gooey cheese perfectly complement each other.

Why You Should Try This Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe 

There are lots of recipes for Eggplant Parmigiana. Some may be more ‘authentic’; others may be faster to throw together, but few will be as tasty as this copycat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana.

The secret is the scratch-made marinara sauce. It is bright and flavorful with a little extra heat and sweet. Although you could substitute a jarred sauce and save time, making it yourself is the way to go for something superb. 

Ingredients For Eggplant Parmigiana Olive Garden Style

For the marinara sauce, you’ll need:

  • Olive oil 
  • Garlic 
  • Tomato puree, canned
  • Diced tomatoes, canned
  • Italian seasoning blend 
  • Dried basil
  • Red pepper chili flakes
  • Salt 
  • Sugar 

For preparing the eggplant for frying, you’ll need:

  • Eggplant
  • Salt
  • All-purpose flour 
  • Eggs
  • Whole milk 
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil

For baking the dish, you’ll need:

  • Fried eggplant
  • Marinara sauce
  • Shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese

Use can use homemade or store-bought Italian breadcrumbs. See how to make fresh bread crumbs.

Fresh mozzarella can be used but it will have a different taste and texture.

Olive Garden eggplant parmigiana ingredients on a tray.

How To Make Copycat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana

Here are the steps for making this eggplant parmesan recipe:

To make the marinara sauce:

  1. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  2. While the pot is heating, slice the garlic cloves in half.
  3. Add olive oil to the hot pot and saute the garlic until golden and fragrant. Adjust the heat to prevent the garlic from burning. 
olive oil and garlic slices in a pan.
  1. Remove the garlic and discard.
  2. Carefully empty the cans of tomato purée and diced tomatoes into the hot pot.
  3. Stir in the Italian seasoning blend, dried basil, red pepper chili flakes, and salt. 
ingredients for marinara sauce in a pan.
  1. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low. At this point, you can start prepping the eggplant. See the instructions below.
  2. Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Taste the sauce, adjust the seasonings, and add a little sugar if the sauce is too acidic.

To prepare the eggplant for frying:

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut it into ¾-inch thick slices.
  2. Salt the slice liberally and let them rest on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes. Salting the eggplant removes any bitterness and improves the texture, so please don’t skip this step.
salted eggplant slices on a baking sheet.
  1. Rinse the salt off under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Set up the breading station with three wide shallow bowls or pie tins. Put all-purpose flour in the first container; whisk together the egg and milk in the second container, and dump the seasoned breadcrumbs into the third container. Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking tray and keep it close by.
  3. Use one hand to coat eggplant slices in flour and shake off any excess.
eggplant slices and seasoned flour in a bowl.
  1. Transfer the floured slice using the same hand to the container with the egg mixture. Use the other hand to coat both sides.
seasoned floured eggplant slices in egg wash.
  1. Drop the slice into the bread crumbs and cover evenly with bread crumbs. Place on the wire rack and finish breading the rest of the eggplant. 
breaded eggplant slices.

To fry the eggplant:

  1. Pour a half-inch of vegetable oil into a wide, shallow pot such as a rondeau. 
  2. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 400°F. 
  3. Line a wire rack with paper towels. 
  4. Use tongs to place the breaded eggplant in the hot oil carefully and fry until light brown on both sides. Don’t overcrowd the pot. You will need to fry in batches. 
  5. Use the tongs to transfer the fried eggplant to the paper towel-lined wire rack. 
  6. Repeat as necessary. 

To assemble and bake the Eggplant Parmigiana

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
  2. Ladle some of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish to keep the eggplant from sticking.
  3. Put the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish, ladle sauce over it, and cover the top of the eggplant dish with mozzarella cheese. 
  4. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts.
  5. Remove and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped fresh basil leaves or fresh thyme leaves if desired.
copycat Olive Garden eggplant parmigiana topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese.

Special Tips for Handling Eggplant 

In addition to salting the eggplant, as mentioned above, here are a few additional tips for those who are not used to cooking with this vegetable:

  • Don’t use any eggplant that has cuts or damaged skin.
  • Smaller eggplants are tastier than larger eggplant.
  • Eggplants are like sponges and can really soak up oil. Make sure you have extra on hand. 

What To Serve With Eggplant Parmigiana 

A classic pairing is pasta and Eggplant Parmigiana. Use any variety of pasta you prefer, but keep the sauce simple. Serving it with extra marinara sauce in a bowl is perfect. Some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top is great too.

Alternatively, you can serve it with a simple side salad, a cup of soup, and breadsticks for side dishes.

How To Store Leftovers

You can keep extra Eggplant Parmigiana in the refrigerator or freezer:

To refrigerate:

  1. Cool the eggplant in the baking dish. 
  2. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and eat the eggplant within three days. 

To freeze:

  1. Let the eggplant parmigiana cool and cut it into serving portions. Pre-portioning means you won’t have to defrost all the leftovers at the same time.
  2. Place a sheet of wax paper on the bottom of a freezer-safe container and place the portioned leftovers on top. The waxed paper will prevent the food from sticking.
  3. Cover and freeze for up to a month. Thaw before heating. 

What’s the Best Way to Reheat Eggplant Parmigiana?

You will get the best results reheating eggplant parmigiana in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the leftovers in a baking dish and cover them with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes until warmed through. 
overhead view of copycat Olive Garden eggplant parmigiana, pasta, and marinara on a platter.

Love Olive Garden? Try These Copycat Recipes!

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copycat Olive Garden eggplant parmigiana, pasta, and marinara on a platter.

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Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana

You can make eggplant parmesan like Olive Garden with this easy copycat recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Eggplant Parmesan, Olive Garden Recipes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Resting 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 615kcal

Ingredients

Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic sliced into large slices
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Eggplant

  • 2 medium eggplant sliced in ⅜ inch slices
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

For the Eggplan Parm

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • chopped parsley for garnish if desired

Instructions

  • Prep eggplant by placing the slices on baking sheets and sprinkling them with salt. This will draw out the bitter juices. After about an hour, blot with paper towels. While the bitter juices are being drawn out of the eggplant, start the marinara.

Marinara Sauce

  • In a large stainless steel pot or dutch oven (please do not use cast iron the acidity of the tomatoes may make the sauce taste metallic if you use cast iron), add the olive oil and heat on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent and very fragrant. Remove the garlic.
  • Add both cans of tomatoes and Italian seasoning, dried basil, chili pepper flakes, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to blend. Then reduce the heat to simmer, and place a lid on the pot. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Taste the sauce; if it is too acidic, add ½ tablespoon of sugar, taste it, and see if you need to add the remaining sugar.

Eggplant

  • Prepare a breading station by setting up 3 dishes. Place flour in the first dish beat the eggs and milk together in the second dish, and in the third dish, place the Italian-seasoned bread crumbs.
  • Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a wire rack resting on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  • In a large straight-sided skillet, pour the oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium heat until it registers 400 degrees F on a deep frying thermometer. (The oil must be heated to 400 degrees F. so that the breaded eggplant, when added, will drop the temperature of the oil to the proper frying temperature of 375 degrees F.)
  • Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, then cook on the other side. Using tongs, transfer to a clean wire rack resting on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Eggplant Parm

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil.
  • Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/3 of the marinara sauce and arrange half of the eggplant over the sauce.
  • Cover the eggplant with another 1/3 of the sauce.
  • Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on the eggplant, and then place in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  • You can serve the remaining sauce to with pasta to accompany the eggplant parmigiana.

Nutrition

Calories: 615kcal | Carbohydrates: 84g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 119mg | Sodium: 1613mg | Potassium: 812mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 573IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 337mg | Iron: 6mg

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