A long time ago, we started making a fresher, lighter version of Eggplant Parm, not so greasy, definitely more in line with how we want to cook on a daily basis. We didn't want to shortcut flavor, just some of the fat. And doesn't it look delicious?
In essence, our renovated casserole is like a lasagna without any noodles: eggplant slices stand in for the pasta, layered between a homemade tomato sauce and some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's light but satisfying, a favorite meatless meal around here, honest-to-God comfort food. Our recipe makes a lot, enough for 8 servings. But the leftovers fly out of the fridge for lunch on subsequent days.
Here's the deal:
First, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Oil a large lipped baking sheet or two. Slice 2 large eggplants into 1/2-inch (1 1/4-cm) thick disks. Set these on the sheets and bake about 40 minutes, turning once, until softened and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 chopped large yellow onion and 2 seeded and chopped cubanel (a.k.a. Italian frying) peppers. Stir over the heat for a few minutes until softened. Then stir in 8 ounces (225 grams) sliced cremini mushrooms and a couple of minced garlic cloves. Stir over the heat until the mushrooms soften a bit, maybe 4 minutes.
Dump in 1 cup (240 ml) dry white wine, crank the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Boil it until the wine has reduced by about half its original volume.
Now dump one 28-ounce (800-gram) can diced tomatoes and one 28-ounce (800-gram) can crushed tomatoes. Also add 1 tablespoon minced oregano leaves, 1 tablespoon minced marjoram leaves, 1 tablespoon stemmed thyme, 1 teapsoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Bring all that to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let it go about 1 hour, until thick and rich. (Keep that oven at 350F).
When everything's ready, build the casserole in a 9 x 13-inch (22 cm x 33-cm) baking dish. Ladle about a quarter of the tomato sauce into the casserole. Layer a third of the eggplant slices as you would noodles in a lasagna. Top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat with a third of the remaining sauce, half the remaining eggplant slices, and more shaved cheese. And again with half the remaining sauce, all the remaining eggplant slices, and more cheese. Finally, pour the remaining sauce on top and give it a little more cheese.
Cover--with parchment paper, then with aluminum foil--and bake for 45 minutes. (You don't want the foil to touch the acid-rich tomatoes.) Uncover and continue baking until bubbling and wonderful, about 15 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes before dishing up slices.