I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of pasta. I know that some of you reading this are wondering what is wrong with me, but hear me out for a minute.
It’s not that I don’t eat pasta, because I do; it’s just that I’m not going to order it off a restaurant menu unless it’s in the form of mac ’n cheese (I do love mac ’n cheese; there are exceptions to every rule).
I also love eggplant, and eggplant Parmesan is on restaurant menus everywhere. The problem is that it’s breaded and fried, covered in cheese and served with a heaping pile of pasta. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had some delicious eggplant Parmesan, but just because it’s centered around a vegetable doesn’t make it a healthy dish.
I found this recipe in Clean Eating magazine several years ago, tried it and it has become one of my favorite things to make every since. I have changed a few things from the original, but the idea is the same. Crispy eggplant with a side of bulgur wheat instead of pasta. It’s different yes; but totally delicious.
The key to the flavor in this dish is the hand chopped pesto. It’s not as easy as throwing everything in the food processor (or heaven forbid buying those little tubs whose main ingredient in canola oil), but it’s worth the effort.
Fresh mozzarella, your favorite sauce (I use Rao’s marinara. Even though I make a killer tomato sauce, for this dish, it’s got to be Rao’s), toasted pine nuts, and some quick cooking bulgur wheat take crispy eggplant to a whole new level. One that doesn’t leave you feeling tired and bloated from grease, simple carbs and processed cheese. Try it. If you don’t love it…well it will still be one of my favorite meals.
- 4 baby eggplants
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano)
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup bulgur wheat
- 1⅓ cups water
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
- 1 large bunch of basil (if you’re using those plastic containers, get 2)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch salt
- To put together:
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into small rounds
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 425 ºF.
- Slice your eggplant in ½ inch slices. Combine the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and cheese and season with salt and pepper.
- Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
- Dredge the eggplants in the egg and coat with the breadcrumbs. Lay them on a parchment lined sheet pan. Sprinkle any remaining breadcrumbs on top. Once all are coated, bake for about 20-25 minutes, until browned and crispy.
- Put the bulgur, water and a big pinch of salt in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off heat and let sit while you put everything together, for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Make the pesto by chopping the basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheese by hand. When everything is finely chopped, add the lemon zest and a pinch of salt and put in a small bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and set aside.
- When the eggplant is done, remove from the oven and top each with a spoonful of sauce and a piece of cheese. Stack the eggplant either 2 or 3 slices high and put back in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
- While the eggplant is back in the oven, add the toasted pine nuts and half of the pesto with the bulgur and fluff with a fork.
- To serve, spoon some of the sauce on the plate, lay the eggplant on top and serve with a side of bulgur, remaining pesto and leftover sauce.