Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

My kind of soul food — stacks of eggplant slices with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.


Thou shalt not covet fat shiny purple-black eggplants. Oh, but I do. I know the season is over and wonder where my market is getting theirs, but I love their glossy fullness, the contrast between the dark skin and green stem cap. They even squeak. I can’t resist them. Their meaty flesh is the perfect accompaniment to tomato sauce, cheese and pesto.

I found this recipe on the Proud Italian Cook blog. Marie cooks soul food. Many of her recipes, including this one, don’t specify ingredient amounts or cooking times, you have to use your instinct or nose to figure out how much is enough. But that’s easy to do with this recipe. All you have to do is create stacks — no need for specifics.

You’ll need to roast eggplant slices for this recipe. That’s an easy thing to do ahead of time or just before assembling the stacks. Use leftover roasted eggplant slices for sandwiches — add a little provolone cheese and pesto mayo — or in stir-fry.

Her recipe calls for fresh mozzarella but I bought an 8 ounce bag of shredded regular mozzarella instead because it was half-price. I’m a proud frugal not-really-Italian cook.

Once you make this recipe, you’ll always return to it because it’s so easy and so delicious. My recipe for Garlic Bread is below too.

Eggplant Stacks

  • 6 oz shredded mozzarella, or fresh mozzarella
  • 2 eggplants — for six stacks
  • 6 tablespoons basil pesto — homemade or store-bought
  • ½ jar marinara sauce, or homemade – I prefer a spicy sauce, add crushed red pepper if necessary
  • Coarse breadcrumbs — whole wheat, white or both
  • Grated parmesan cheese — you can add romano or mozzarella to this

Prepare the eggplant by picking off the stem caps, then slicing each end off. Stand it up and peel the skin off with a knife. Sometimes if you cut the eggplant in half crosswise, it’s easier to handle its curves. You can leave some skin on and take some off, in zebra fashion, striping it as you go around. Or you can peel it all off. Slice the peeled eggplant into 3/4″ rounds. Brush the slices on both sides with olive oil, place them on a sheet pan and bake in a 450F oven until the slices are golden and tender.

Toast the breadcrumbs. If you’re using fresh mozzarella, slice it into rounds.

Spread marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Place six eggplant slices, or one for  each stack, spaced out, on the bottom of the dish. Spread about 1 Tbsp, or whatever amount covers the eggplant, of marinara sauce on top of each slice, then a piece of fresh mozzarella or about 1 Tbsp shredded cheese. Place another eggplant slice on top and spread with a scant Tbsp of pesto. Add the final eggplant slices, more sauce and another piece of fresh mozzarella or shredded cheese. Top with more sauce, toasted breadcrumbs and, finally, the grated parmesan cheese. Go easy on the crumbs — you don’t want too much dryness on the top.

The assembly order looks like this: marinara on bottom of dish, eggplant, marinara, mozzarella, eggplant, pesto, eggplant, marinara, mozzarella, marinara, breadcrumbs, parmesan mix.

Bake uncovered at 375F until heated through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.

Garlic Bread

Slice a baguette in half crosswise and then lengthwise. Melt some butter in a dish in the microwave. Add some olive oil to it. Brush that onto the cut sides of the bread. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley and oregano (or dried oregano) on each piece. Add some chopped sautéed garlic (or garlic powder or garlic salt). Sprinkle with a little shredded mozzarella if you have some left over, or parmesan. Cut the baguette into serving size pieces — big slabs — and wrap each in foil. Bake in oven while your Eggplant Stacks are finishing up, 5-10 minutes.

Original recipe: Proud Italian Cook – Eggplant Stacks

7 thoughts on “Eggplant, Marinara and Mozzarella Stacks

  1. Marie says:

    Deirdre, I can’t resist the squeekiness too! I can eat eggplant all year because of that. I’m so glad you figured out my non recipe, recipe, I never did like math! lol
    Have a joyous Thanksgiving.

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Thanks, Marie. I’ve got another one of your recipes on deck to try soon — Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Brown Butter Sauce, yum.

  2. SHIRLEY says:

    Thanks Marie, This recipe sounds sooo easy & from the comments seems to be a winner..
    My hubby wants an eggplant dish tonite, and I just found the perfect recipe..
    Will let you know the results..Shirley

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Hopefully Marie is reading! She’s the one who created this recipe over at her Proud Italian Cook blog. But I hope you like this dish, it is a winner. Thanks for reading!

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