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An air fryer makes a healthy version of this South Italian favourite, with the same great taste. Serve as a side or main course with a piece of bread to mop up the sauce!
Eggplant parmesan is a layered dish of eggplant, baked in a tomato sauce with melted cheese. The flavours come together beautifully as a delicious, rich and satisfying comfort food. It is excellent served hot or at room temperature, as a main course or a side.
The traditional way of cooking this dish, is to lightly fry the slices of eggplant in oil till they are slightly browned. However, eggplant is rather like a sponge and is capable of absorbing large amounts of oil.
VonShef kindly sent me their Digital Air fryer so, instead of frying the eggplant slices, I used a tiny bit of oil and air fried them! The result was great – the eggplant was nicely browned, with a crisp exterior which sealed the moisture inside.
The air fryer works by rapidly circulating hot air round the food. At 1300W, this model uses less energy than an oven. It also keeps a steady temperature, and because of its smaller size, cooking times are significantly reduced.
Little or no oil is required, making this a healthier option than shallow or deep-frying. For foods with low-fat content like these eggplant slices, coat with a small amount of oil (usually a tablespoon is enough) to flavour and brown the surface.
With the higher temperature settings, it achieves the Maillard reaction which gives browned food its distinctive flavour.
I found the VonShef handy, compact and very easy to use. Keep the power on button pressed to activate the digital display and select from a range of temperature settings (150℃-200℃), and timings (up to 60 minutes). The auto shut-off means it doesn’t need to be watched!
The basket size is 2.5L, and non-stick so it is very easy to clean. I was very pleased with the way the eggplant turned out and quite enjoyed using it.
To make this dish, first salt the eggplant slices to remove the excess moisture (this will also give a better texture when cooked), and leave to drain in a colander for 30-90 minutes. Then rinse off the excess salt and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the eggplant, and arrange in a single layer in the basket of the air fryer. (They will need to be cooked in batches.) Use tongs to remove the cooked eggplant.
I used my Italian tomato sauce for this recipe which can be prepared ahead of time, or while the eggplant is cooking in the air fryer.
To assemble, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, then cover with a layer of eggplant, grated pepper, then cheese. Repeat till all the ingredients are used up. Top with thin slices of mozzarella or fior di latte, and bake in the oven.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a piece of warm bread to mop up the sauce!
Also consider adding some sliced hard-boiled eggs between the layers to make it even more delicious.
Eggplant slices can be air fried in advance and kept in the fridge till needed.
Cover and store the eggplant parmesan in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze and defrost in the fridge before reheating.
Although eggplants (or aubergines) are available in stores throughout the year, they are best from July to October. Look for those which are firm with a glossy skin.
Disclaimer: I was sent the VonShef Digital Air fryer to review, all opinions are my own.
Healthy eggplant parmesan
- 2 eggplants, sliced 1 cm thick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups Italian tomato sauce
- 125g mozzarella cheese, sliced and drained or fior di latte, sliced and drained
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- parmigiano reggiano, grated optional
- Salt the eggplant slices and place in a colander. Allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes. Rinse the slices and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Rub a little oil over the eggplant and arrange a few at a time in the air fryer basket, in a single layer. Cook at 390℉/200℃ for 6-7 minutes. Repeat till all the slices are cooked.
- Preheat oven to 350℉/175℃. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a medium baking dish, then layer the eggplant on top so they overlap each other slightly. Grind some black pepper on top and add some mozzarella. Repeat the layering with sauce, eggplant and cheese, till all the ingredients have been used. Bake for 20 minutes or till cheese is melted. Serve warm or room temperature, with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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