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.
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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
- Tomato puree, canned
- Diced tomatoes, canned
- Italian seasoning blend
- Dried basil
- Red pepper chili flakes
For preparing the eggplant for frying, you’ll need:
- All-purpose flour
- 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.
How To Make Copycat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana
Here are the steps for making this eggplant parmesan recipe:
To make the marinara sauce:
- Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
- While the pot is heating, slice the garlic cloves in half.
- Add olive oil to the hot pot and saute the garlic until golden and fragrant. Adjust the heat to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Remove the garlic and discard.
- Carefully empty the cans of tomato purée and diced tomatoes into the hot pot.
- Stir in the Italian seasoning blend, dried basil, red pepper chili flakes, and salt.
- 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.
- Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste the sauce, adjust the seasonings, and add a little sugar if the sauce is too acidic.
To prepare the eggplant for frying:
- Peel the eggplant and cut it into ¾-inch thick slices.
- 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.
- Rinse the salt off under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- 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.
- Use one hand to coat eggplant slices in flour and shake off any excess.
- Transfer the floured slice using the same hand to the container with the egg mixture. Use the other hand to coat both sides.
- 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.
To fry the eggplant:
- Pour a half-inch of vegetable oil into a wide, shallow pot such as a rondeau.
- Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 400°F.
- Line a wire rack with paper towels.
- 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.
- Use the tongs to transfer the fried eggplant to the paper towel-lined wire rack.
- Repeat as necessary.
To assemble and bake the Eggplant Parmigiana
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Ladle some of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish to keep the eggplant from sticking.
- Put the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish, ladle sauce over it, and cover the top of the eggplant dish with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in the oven until the cheese melts.
- Remove and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped fresh basil leaves or fresh thyme leaves if desired.
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.
How To Store Leftovers
You can keep extra Eggplant Parmigiana in the refrigerator or freezer:
- Cool the eggplant in the baking dish.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and eat the eggplant within three days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the leftovers in a baking dish and cover them with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes until warmed through.
Love Olive Garden? Try These Copycat Recipes!
- Cheese Stuffed Shells
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
- Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara
- Chicken Margherita
- Chicken Parmigiana
- Crispy Chicken Fritta
- Fried Mozzarella Sticks
- Olive Garden Marinara
- Olive Garden Meatballs
- Pasta Pomodoro
Favorite Vegetarian Pasta Recipes
Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana
- 2 medium-sized eggplants sliced in 3/8-inch slices
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 cups Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- chopped parsley for garnish if desired
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic sliced into large slices
- 28 ounces tomato puree
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheets and sprinkle them with salt to 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.
- To make the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil in a large stainless-steel pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. (Do not use cast iron, which may make the sauce taste metallic due to the acidity of the tomatoes.) When the oil is hot, add the sliced garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent and very fragrant. Remove the garlic from the pot.
- Add the tomato puree, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, dried basil, red chili flakes, salt, and ground black pepper to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Taste the sauce. If it is too acidic, add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. Taste it again and add the remaining sugar if necessary.
- Prepare a breading station by setting up 3 dishes, as well as a wire rack resting on a baking sheet. Place the flour in the first dish, beat the eggs and milk together in the second dish, and place the Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs in the third dish.
- Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, dip it in the egg mixture, and dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and place the eggplant on the wire rack. 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°F on a deep-frying thermometer. (The oil must be heated to 400°F so that the breaded eggplant, when added, will drop the temperature of the oil to the proper frying temperature of 375°F.)
- Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown. Using tongs, transfer the fried eggplant to a clean wire rack resting on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Cover the bottom of the dish with 1/3 of the marinara sauce. Arrange half of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with another 1/3 of the sauce, followed by another layer of eggplant. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over the top.
- Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Garnish with parsley if desired, and serve with pasta and the remaining sauce.