The inspiration for today’s recipe, Veggie Parmesan Stacks, is your traditional Italian fave, Eggplant Parmesan. However in this recipe I leave out the the breadcrumbs which also eliminates the step of frying or baking the eggplant first.
These veggie parmesan stacks work perfectly for a light lunch paired with a salad or for a heartier dinner paired with a whole grain pilaf such as farro or quinoa, or with a healthy protein. It’s also pretty quick and easy to assemble. You can use jarred marinara sauce or make marinara from scratch. It simply depends on your preference and the time you want to spend in the kitchen.
I was slow to appreciate eggplant, it’s name in the US. In other areas of the world it’s known as aubergine, brinjal, guinea squash, berenjena and a few other names as well. Personally, I like aubergine best – it has a nice ring to it.
Eggplant is usually called a vegetable, but it is actually a berry and part of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes and potatoes. It wasn’t a favorite of mine as a child. I remember when mom served it for dinner, it was usually in some fried form. But over the years, my appreciation of this ingredient changed as I started to be more willing to trying new things. I must say, it’s become a favorite. It has a hearty, almost meaty texture that I really enjoy. Eggplant also pairs super well with zucchini and onion which is why these are my three choices when making these veggie parmesan stacks.
More about eggplant
There are various varieties of eggplant which vary in size, shape and even color. The most common variety is dark purple and a long, oblong shape. Personally, I like to cook it with the skin intact. There are lots of nutrients in the skin such as fiber, antioxidants, magnesium and potassium. Purple eggplant includes anthocyanins, which give the skin the purple color. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties and may protect the heart.
Eggplant often tastes a bit bitter, especially if you use older eggplant or store them too long before cooking. If that is one of the reasons you avoid this vegetable, try sprinkling it with salt after cutting it. Allow it to sit for about 30 minutes. This will draw out some of the water as well as the bitterness from the eggplant. Be sure to rinse off the salt before proceeding to cook the eggplant.
Eggplant has lots of flexibility and works well steamed, broiled, roasted, fried and grilled. My favorite methods for cooking are to roast and grill it. I think the flavors it develops during these cooking methods are fabulous.
Hints for preparing and serving veggie parmesan stacks
In this recipe the vegetables are roasted a bit before being combined with the other ingredients. You don’t want to roast for too long or the vegetables will be too soft and won’t hold up when you create stacks.
Another key step is cutting the vegetable slices. You want them to be about a 1/4 thick so that the stack won’t be too high. The higher it gets the more likely it is to fall over.
Serve this dish with a salad, chilled chopped vegetables or your favorite whole grain side dish such as a quinoa pilaf for a bit of protein. This recipe also works as a side dish when paired with a healthy protein or pasta dish.
This dish is perfect for meal prep! Simply marinated your onions ahead of time and then roast them off while also roasting the eggplant and zucchini too. Then store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook and eat. Assemble them into stacks to cook and put in the oven. You may need to increase the cooking time by 10 minutes or so if cooking from a chilled state.
Veggie Parmesan Stacks + Balsamic Onions
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 small red onion
- 3 tsp olive oil separated
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup + 2 T parmesan cheese separated
- ¾ cup marinara sauce
- Fresh basil for garnish chopped or whole
- Preheat oven 400 degrees.
- Cut red onion into ¼” slices. Place cut red onion into a baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 T of balsamic vinegar. Allow it to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Cut eggplant horizontally into ¼” slices. You need a total of 12 slices.
- Cut zucchini lengthwise into ¼” slices. Cut each slice in half. You need a total of 8 pieces.
- Layout eggplant and zucchini on a baking sheet and brush with remaining 2 tsp of olive oil.
- Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Place zucchini and eggplant into oven and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Flipping once halfway through.
- When onions are finished marinating, place them on a lightly sprayed pan and place in the oven as well and cook for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Don’t worry if the rings of the onions separate when flipping or handling. You can just use the pieces in the stack.
- When vegetables are tender yet still a bit firm (remember they are going to cook again), remove from oven. Allow to cool for a bit, until you are able to handle them with your fingers (5-10 minutes).
- While roasting the veggies, mix together the ricotta and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
- To create the stacks, start with the eggplant, top with onion and zucchini.
- Next layer a basil leaf, 1 T sauce, 1 T ricotta mixture.
- Repeat with another layer following the same pattern. Then end with one last slice of eggplant, 1 T sauce and sprinkle with ½ T of parmesan cheese.
- Place in oven and bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until heated and cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.
Did you try out this recipe for veggie parmesan stacks? If so, share your pictures on Instagram and be sure to tag @cookeatlivelove so I can see your masterpiece! If you have any comments on this recipe or other content you would like to see, please comment here on the blog or send me a message via any social media or the contact me page. If you like this recipe, please be sure to give it a 5-star rating in the recipe card.
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