Serves 4 to 6
2 large eggplant, about 1 pound each
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
3 cups basic tomato sauce, warm (recipe follows, or use your favorite)
About 12 leaves fresh basil (from 1 small bunch)
3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/8-inch-thick
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Heat the oven to 450° F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
Slice each eggplant into 6 disks about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Brush both sides of each disk with olive oil, lightly season both sides with salt and pepper, and place evenly spaced on the lined baking sheets.
Roast the eggplant until the slices are tender throughout and lightly browned, about 30 minutes, flipping the slices once and rotating the pans top to bottom for even cooking. Check to see that the slices are tender by poking in a few places with a fork (if some slices are taking longer than others, you can remove the tender ones to a plate and continue roasting the rest).
Lower the oven temperature to 350° F. Scoot all of the smallest eggplant pieces to one of the same lined baking sheets, and on the other, place the 6 largest eggplant slices, evenly spaced.
Over each slice, spread a scant 1/4 cup of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a couple leaves of basil (torn into a few pieces if very large). Place one slice of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with about a teaspoon grated Parmigiano. Place a smaller slice of eggplant over each of the disks and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses.
Bake uncovered until the cheese is well-melted, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the breadcrumbs over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt until golden and crisp, stirring often. Set aside until the eggplant is ready, then sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant, and serve immediately.
Basic tomato sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced Salt 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as oatmeal, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with more salt to taste. This sauce keeps 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.