Eggplant doesn't inspire the same kind of fervor as most other summer fruits and veggies. While we eagerly wait all year for peaches, tomatoes, and avocados to fill the produce aisle, we're not exactly counting down the days until peak eggplant season. So we were shocked to find three eggplant Parmesan recipes that made us want to turn on our ovens in August (yes, even though it's a blistering 90 degrees outside—they're that good).
Although eggplant parmesan is best known as the vegetarian-friendly alternative to chicken Parmesan, these inspired recipes prove that parmigiana is just as tasty as the beloved carnivore version. Or dare we say, even tastier. From cheesy baked lasagna boats to surprisingly delicious meatless meatballs, these dishes aren't anything like the classic Italian version your grandma taught you how to make.
Ahead are three recipes that take eggplant Parmesan to the next level. Buon appetito.
Eggplant Lasagna Boats
The Hero Ingredient: The ground spicy Italian chicken sausage. Most meat sauce recipes call for plain-old ground beef, but Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest opts for a leaner alternative, which also gives the dish a nice kick.
The Pro Tip: If you want to modify this dish to make it vegetarian-friendly, Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest has you covered. "Try swapping extra veggies and lentils into the sauce. Maybe even add some extra spices, and you'll have the perfect vegetable eggplant lasagna."
Meatless Eggplant Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
The Recipe: Eggplant Meatballs in Marinara
The Hero Ingredient: The eggplant. The roasted veggie is the main event here (and we're not complaining).
The Pro Tip: This recipe is the perfect go-to dinner for feeding a family of four (and it yields plenty of leftovers). "Just one roasted medium eggplant will give you 14 two-inch meatballs," says Amy of A Healthy Life for Me. "Serve it with a big leafy green salad, and you'll have a great vegetarian dinner, and no one will feel deprived without protein."
Eggplant Roll Pasta Bake
The Hero Ingredient: The fresh cherry tomatoes. Canned tomatoes just can't mimic the delicious flavor of peak summer tomatoes. For optimal results, head to your local farmers market to pick up your produce.
The Pro Tip: The eggplant rolls make for an impressive presentation, but they require a decent amount of prep time. If you're in a hurry, Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest has a shortcut you can use to get dinner on the table faster. "Simply dice the eggplant and add it to the turkey mixture while you're adding the tomatoes," Tieghan offers. "Then toss the sauce with the pasta, and top it with cheese. Bake as directed."
Would you try any of these variations on eggplant Parmesan? Tell us in the comments below. Up next: Six healthy eggplant recipes to switch up your weeknight dinner routine.