My Mother’s Eggplant Parmesan With Homemade Sauce

By Laura Miller | December 20, 2021
Image by ~UserGI15633745
by Laura Miller
December 20, 2021

Growing up in an Italian household, we didn’t have holiday meals. We had epic multi-course feasts — the kind that took weeks of planning, shopping and preparation. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we kids would warn our first-time guests not to fill up on pasta, which was always the first course.

This was not as easy as it may sound. You see, the pasta course was a medley of dishes covered with homemade garden tomato sauce. My parents never used store-bought brands, so the aroma alone was enough to make our mouths water. Any dish my mother made with homemade garden tomato sauce tasted exquisite. 

A Special Holiday Dish

One family favorite was homemade eggplant parmesan. Although I’m not a fan of the main ingredient, family and friends loved this dish. It was all the more special as my mother only made this holiday tradition on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Like most of my mother’s signature dishes, eggplant parmesan with homemade sauce had its start in our backyard garden. This began with a trip to the local greenhouse in May. My parents would fill flats with different varieties of tomato and pepper seedlings, which were the basis of my mother’s homemade garden tomato sauce. 

They would always leave room in the flat for a single pack of eggplant seedlings. My father’s variety of choice was “Black Beauty.” He would pick through the packs of this large, purple variety to find the perfect one. It had to have four nicely-sized, healthy-looking eggplant seedlings. 

Looking back, I never gave it much thought, but those four little seedlings carried a huge weight. Without them, my mother’s holiday tradition of eggplant parmesan with homemade sauce wouldn’t have happened. Being one of my father’s favorite dishes, this was a fact I’m sure he didn’t overlook. 

Since my mother’s passing, I’ve tried my hand at making her homemade eggplant parmesan recipe. As I’m not terribly fond of the dish, I’m certainly no connoisseur. My family tells me it’s good, but seriously! I have no doubt they would lie to spare my feelings. 

If there is one thing I know I’m doing right, it’s using garden-grown veggies to make eggplant parmesan with homemade sauce. So here are my tips for growing eggplant.

Tips for Growing Eggplant

  • Practice crop rotation – Eggplants are members of the nightshade family, as are tomatoes and peppers. To reduce incidents of disease, avoid planting eggplants where tomatoes or peppers grew the previous season.
  • Protect from frost – Like tomatoes and peppers, transplant these cold-sensitive seedlings into the garden when all danger of frost has passed.
  • Pest controlFlea beetles love to chew on the leaves of eggplants. Use black plastic mulch and row covers to deter these pests.
  • Harvest eggplants at their peak – Choose firm fruit with dark glossy skin. 
  • Preserve the flavor – For the best tasting holiday homemade eggplant parmesan, my mother would freeze the eggplant as soon as possible after it was harvested.
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