Baked Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

Here’s an easier, lighter version of eggplant Parmesan. Using fresh from the garden eggplant, tomatoes and basil, you’ve got the beginnings of eggplant parm. The fat and calorie heft of traditional eggplant Parmesan comes from the breading and frying of the eggplant and the pounds of cheese that is layered between the slices. For my version, I skip both. By slicing the eggplant in half, brushing lightly with olive oil and baking in a 400 degree oven, you’ll get a nice soft eggplant which is perfect as the base for the rest of the ingredients. Since I’m not layering, you can use less cheese but once baked, you’ll still get a delicious, creamy, golden cheesiness (with about 1/4 of the saturated fat of the traditional version). Making a quick, homemade tomato sauce is key to getting a fresh, vibrant tomato flavor that will compliment the fresh vegetables. This recipe seems long but it actually only took me about 45 minutes, start to finish (I even made on a work night). You can do double duty. While the eggplant roasts, make the tomato sauce and while the sauce is cooking, you can make the cheese mixture.

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I love tubes of tomato paste. It makes it so easy when you only need a tablespoon or two. You can store it for a long time in the refrigerator.

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Baked Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

2 medium eggplants (thinner is better), cut in half lengthwise

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

½ cup low-fat cottage cheese

½ cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan Regiano

1 small garlic clove, minced

½ cup chopped fresh basil

Fresh ground pepper

Tomato Sauce

2 pounds fresh tomatoes (plum or cherry) or 32 ounce no salt added canned tomatoes (use as many tomatoes you think you’ll need for the sauce)

1 clove garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup, chopped fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place eggplant in a 9 x 11 baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray. Brush eggplant with a small amount of olive oil. Bake until softened, about 20 minutes (depending on size of the eggplant).

While the eggplant is roasting, make the cheese mixture and tomato sauce. In a medium bowl, mix together the all of the cheeses, 1 small minced garlic, ½ cup chopped basil and ground pepper. Set aside.

For the tomato sauce, in a large pan, sauté  smashed garlic clove (you can take this out at the end of cooking) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes. Cook on high for about 20 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates and sauce reduces.  Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste an 1/2 cup of chopped basil. Cook for a few minutes. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Using the same dish you roasted the eggplant in, remove the eggplant to another plate, and put about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Return eggplant to dish, placing on top of sauce. Divide the cheese mixture so you have enough to top each of the eggplant halves. You’ll have about 1/3 cup of cheese leftover because you don’t need a lot for each eggplant. Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce on top of eggplant. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until cheese melts and begins to brown and bubble. Serves 4.

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We had some beautiful Swiss chard growing in the garden so I sauteed it in the same pan I cooked the tomato sauce in. The entire meal used only 1 dish and 1 pan (always a goal when I’m cooking).

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Nutrition Note: Mixing the low-fat cottage cheese with the part-skim ricotta cheese lightens the cheese mixture without compromising on flavor. Eggplant will absorb oil like a sponge so instead of frying it in oil, brush it lightly with olive oil and roast it in a hot oven. You can skip the pasta with this dish. The baked eggplant, although lighter than the traditional version, is still a nice, hearty dish. Serve it with a green vegetable and a tossed salad.

 

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