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How To Make Pan-Fried Eggplant With Meat Sauce

eggplant and marinara sauce

Pan-fried eggplant with meat sauce is a delicious and healthy option if you’re craving the heartiness of an Italian meat but looking to reduce the carbs you would normally find with pasta as the main ingredient. The fried eggplant slices come to a golden crisp and are topped with our homemade sauce and of course, some cheese. 

Ease of Making: Medium

This eggplant milanese is brought together by dredging your eggplant in a combination of egg wash and seasoned breadcrumbs. You don’t need any flour to fry eggplant in this recipe. If you’re concerned about your eggplant absorbing oil when cooking, you can salt the eggplant or soak it in milk ahead of time to break down the plant and break down the porous structure of the plant. 

Eggplant has many fantastic benefits like increasing brain function, preventing anemia, helping with digestion and improving heart health. It’s high fiber content can lead the way to reducing the cholesterol in your system by binding it to the bile in your digestive system and removing it naturally. 

Preparing Your Eggplant for Cooking

Before you begin your cooking process, you’ll want to remove the stem, leaves and the top and bottom of the plant. You can leave the skin on or remove it, that’s totally up to you. For this recipe it is important to salt the eggplant. Salt helps bring out the extra moisture that can provide a mushy and soggy result when cooked. Slice your eggplant into circles and salt both sides, letting it sit on a kitchen towel or paper towel  for at least twenty minutes. 

Historically, eggplant was actually salted before cooking to reduce some of the bitter flavor that came with the plant. However, the eggplants we have now have mostly bred out the bitterness. 

What are the Different Types of Eggplant

There are countless varieties of eggplant that can vary widely in shape, size and even color. Most common at American grocery stores, is you guessed it, the American eggplant. This eggplant is also known as the globe eggplant and has a tougher, meatier texture than other eggplants. 

Some other varieties of eggplant:

Graffiti Eggplant – Slightly sweeter than the traditional eggplant, the graffiti eggplant is most recognizable by its purple and white striped skin. Which is why it is also known as striped eggplants.  This variation is great for eating pureeing, eating whole or substituting in for traditional eggplant if you need. 

Japanese Eggplant – Both the Japanese and Chinese eggplants vary from traditional varieties in their long, oblong shape. The Japanese variation of eggplant is deep in it’s purple color and has a creamy flesh that works great in stir frys. 

Fairy Tale Eggplant – Similar in color to the graffiti eggplant, the purple and white striped fairy tale eggplant is small and can fit in the palm of your hand. Due to the tender nature of this variety, it is wonderful for grilling. 

White Eggplant – There isn’t a lot of difference between the classic American eggplant or  “Globe Eggplant” other than the color that the plant is wrapped in. Both the  white and American eggplant have a  smooth creamy skin and meaty flesh. These are great for both bread and protein substitutes. 

Indian Eggplant – The Indian Eggplant is a dark, reddish-purple in color and more spherical than other varieties you may come across. The texture in the Indian eggplant is different from other varieties as it is more tender, making it perfect for roasting, soups, stews and more. 

Little Green Eggplant – A fantastic eggplant for baking, the little green eggplant, is a bright green variety of this “fruit” and is most known for being mild and sweet in flavor. 

Thai Eggplant – Thai eggplant is round, small in size, and traditionally hard to find. These miniature eggplants are typically a greenish-white color with a light pink flesh. Most notably, Thai eggplant is more bitter than other varieties, to remove some of the bitterness you can try removing the seeds. If you’re able to score some at your local market, try throwing a few in our recipe for Thai Red Beef Curry.

There are countless other varieties and heirloom versions of each that are available to eggplant lovers across the world. Try experimenting with the various types when you’re making something new and see which you like best!

Eggplant FAQ

What is the best time of year for eggplant?

Eggplant is available year-round but it’s peak season runs from July to October. 

How to store eggplant?

Eggplants can’t withstand temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit so storing in the refrigerator can sometimes be counterproductive. If you choose to do so, store it in the vegetable drawer or the warmest part of your fridge. Eggplants can also be kept out of the fridge, which may actually help increase their lifespan. Store in an area that is cool and away from direct sunlight. 

How to choose an eggplant?

Due to the fact that there are many varieties of eggplants and each is slightly different, a general rule of thumb is to look for a firm, shiny skin. Avoid eggplants that have started to wrinkle or have soft, brown spots on their skin.  Eggplants should feel heavy and not hollow. 

Is eggplant a fruit or vegetable?

Most people are under the assumption that eggplants are vegetables, but in fact they are fruits!

Do I need to peel eggplant before cooking?

Nope! The skin on eggplant is entirely edible and removing it is more of a preference of the person eating it.

Meal prep tips for Pan-Fried Eggplant

  • Salt your eggplant – this will help reduce moisture and prevent a soggy outcome. 
  • When reheating your pan-fried eggplant, toss it in the oven or an air fryer if you have one to crisp it back up.
  • Soak in milk – soak your eggplant for up to an hour before cooking to help reduce oil absorption when frying. 
  • Microwave before cooking – this is another tactic for reducing oil absorption when frying, as pre-cooking helps break down the spongy texture. 

Pan-Fried Eggplant with Meat Sauce

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Meat Sauce

  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 24 oz marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 each red bell pepper
  • 1 each green bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Eggplant

  • 1 each eggplant
  • 2 each large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions

Pre-Cook (Mise En Place)

  • Gather your equipment: knife, cutting board, two bowls, saute pan, spatula, tongs
  • Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds and season them with salt on both sides. Let it sit for about 20 minutes.
  • Prepare the eggwash by scrambling the eggs in a bowl large enough to fit the eggplant slices in. Then prepare the breadcrumbs in another bowl that is also large enough to fit the eggplant slices in. Then, season the breadcrumbs with garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
  • Dice the onions and cut the bell peppers into 1 inch squares.

Cooking Method:

  • Add oil to a heated pan on medium to high heat. Add the diced onions and ground beef and break it up into smaller pieces. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Keep stirring and cooking until it has turned golden brown.
  • Then, add the marinara sauce and bell peppers and mix well and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes on low medium heat. Then set it aside.
  • Next, prepare the eggplant slices. Use a towel to press down on the eggplant to remove excess liquid. Then, dip each slice in the egg wash on both sides. Dredge it in the breadcrumbs on each side.
  • In another pan, add oil to a pan on medium. Place the eggplant slices in the pan and cook until they get golden crispy (about 2 to 3 minutes). Then flip it over to cook the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Place it on a serving dish and top it off with the meat sauce to your preferred amount. Then sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese on top. Eat and enjoy!

Links to other recipes:

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