1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, San Marzano brand if available
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 c dry red wine
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and 1 t of sugar
1 t dried oregano and a chiffonade of 4 to 6 large fresh basil leaves or more to taste
Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour ½ cup of red wine into can and slosh it around to incorporate tomato juices. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved red wine. Add red pepper flakes, oregano and salt. Stir and cook for five minutes at medium heat. Turn to low heat and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes until sauce is thickened. Stir in basil and sugar. Taste sauce, adding more salt and oregano as needed. Cover and reserve. Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Yield 3 ½ cups.
Note: This recipe can be simplified by using your favorite jarred marinara sauce sauce instead of the homemade sauce above.
Eggplant and Assembly
2 ½ lbs. eggplant (about 3 medium), peeled, sliced lengthwise ½ to ¾ inch thick
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ c panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 t dried oregano
1 ½ c finely grated Parmesan, divided
¾ c all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten to blend
¾ olive oil
¼ c chiffonade of basil and ¼ c fresh parsley, plus extra parsley for garnish, if desired
14 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly season eggplant slices with salt. Place on several layers of paper towels on a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with additional paper towels between layers of eggplants as needed. Top with more paper towels and a place second rimmed baking sheet over eggplant. Weigh down with a heavy pot. Let eggplant sit for 45-60 minutes. It will release excess liquid and give the eggplant a creamy texture when baked. Meanwhile, briefly pulse panko, oregano, pepper and ¾ cup of Parmesan cheese in a food processor until combined. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third bowl. Dredge eggplant slices one at a time in flour, then the egg allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumbs, shaking off excess. Reserve on wire rack or dry baking sheet.
Heat 1/3 cup oil in large skillet over medium high. Working in batches, cook as many eggplant slices as will comfortably fit in the pan, without crowding. Turn once, cook until both sides are golden brown. Add oil to the cooking process as needed. Transfer to paper towel layers to absorb oil. Let cool.
Combine basil, parsley, grated mozzarella and remaining Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread sauce over bottom of a 10 X 9 baking pan. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Drizzle more sauce over and sprinkle with more of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers, making sure to sprinkle cheese mixture on the top of the final tomato sauce. Cover with foil and bake on a baking sheet until eggplant is custardy, about 45-60 minutes.