I'd say trying eggplant parmesan with ricotta (ruh-goat-tah is Gerry's insisted-upon pronunciation) was a revelation. I first had it in college when a homegirl's boyfriend-at-the-time made it for her, and I scavenged like any good college student does. From then on I've been sold that it is the best way to eat eggplant parmesan. Extra rich and cheesy.
I'm also 100 percent sold on baking eggplant instead of frying it. It's less messy, cheaper, healthier (to help balance out the cheese) and I think it's tastier. Frying eggplant in oil makes it soggier, which is a job marinara does well enough alone. Baking the eggplant keeps it a little more firm, and makes for a more satisfying bite. That's my two cents on that.
I made my own marinara using what I had on hand. You can go for the jar sauce if you're into that, but if you're diligent about keeping a relatively well-stocked kitchen, then take the time to make you're own marinara. It's relaxing. I made up a marinara; sautéing the ends of an onion and a yellow bell pepper with 2 minced garlic cloves in olive oil. Then I added 1/4 cup red wine (Zinfandel) and let that simmer. Next I used 1 small can of tomato sauce, 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic, 2/3 small can of tomato paste (leftover from lasagna), a 1/4 cup chicken stock, a teaspoon of sugar, a large handful of chopped fresh basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon oregano and salt & pepper. I let it simmer for at least 5 hours. It yielded 2-3 cups of sauce.
For the eggplant you will need:
breadcrumbs (I only use panko because it makes things crunchier)
Slice the eggplant about 1/4 inch thick. Liberally sprinkle eggplant with salt (preferably Kosher), and let them drain for 30-45 minutes. Doing this makes the eggplant less bitter, and gives it a better texture. Preheat oven to 350. Set up a plate with enough flour to dredge, beat an egg (maybe 2) with a few tablespoons of milk, and in another small bowl combine enough parm, panko and seasonings to coat the eggplant. Dredge, dunk, coat, and put them on a cookie sheet (coated with non-stick spray). Pop them in the oven for roughly 25 minutes or until golden brown.
For the cheese mixture, combine:
12 oz ricotta cheese (I always use the part-skim)
a few tablespoons grated parmesan
1/2 cup shredded, flavorful white cheese (I used Kasseri because had been on sale. But you can use whatever you want)
1/4 cup basil, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
In a cast iron dutch oven, put a light layer of sauce, then add three slices of eggplant and top with a third of the cheese mixture. Repeat the process twice more, and top with more shredded cheese. Cover and bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, removing the lid after 20.
Dive into deliciousness.