Giada's Eggplant Parmesan With A Twist

Eggplant parmesan tastes great and looks so appetizing. It's safe to say this popular and filling Italian dish is loved by all. As a matter of fact, eggplant parmesan is one of those meals that will always score plenty of smiles around the table when it's pulled fresh out of the oven and served. But what if your body doesn't agree with the dairy typically used in a recipe like the mozzarella and parmesan-laden version we know and love by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis? Or, say you or one of your family members is vegan. Either way, recipe developer Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert of Wholly Nourished has adapted De Laurentiis' recipe with a simple twist non-dairy dieters — or anyone with restrictions — can appreciate.

"As a plant-based eater, I wanted a dairy-free take on this classic that didn't skimp on flavor," Shelbert says. So, instead of using cheese, Shelbert will teach home cooks how to create a cashew-based ricotta that is so good, you won't even miss the cheese. Shelbert adhered to De Laurentiis' recipe other than this twist, so you can also enjoy the Food Network star's eggplant parm, just in a new and different way.

Gather your ingredients to prepare Giada's eggplant parmesan with a twist

Interestingly, eggplant is actually a member of the fruit family. This vibrant-hued food doesn't have a lot of calories and boasts fiber and antioxidants as some of its many benefits (via Healthline). Not only is it yummy to eat, it's a healthy choice, too!

To make Giada's eggplant parmesan with a twist, you will shop for two medium eggplants. Once you have selected your eggplants, you will also buy or grab from the pantry extra-virgin olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and marinara sauce — either store-bought or homemade. Add to your shopping list raw cashews (not roasted), nutritional yeast, lemon juice (or a lemon), panko breadcrumbs, and fresh basil. Not familiar with nutritional yeast? These golden flakes have a nutty flavor and contain plenty of vitamins, protein, minerals, and antioxidants.

You can also grab red pepper flakes, too. If you are a fan of heat, it will add a great touch.

Prep your eggplant for the first bake

Step one is to soak your raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. Then, preheat your oven to 400 F. You will actually bake your eggplant twice, in short spurts. First, prep the veggies, er, fruits. Do this by slicing the eggplants lengthwise into ½-inch slices. Go ahead and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet, which you will line with parchment paper.

At this stage, you will score your eggplant, which means you cut into each slice. Be careful not to cut all the way through the slice. Shelbert notes your scoring should resemble "a crisscross pattern about -inch deep." 

Finally, before roasting the eggplant in the oven, gently rub each slice with half of the olive oil, and season with salt, which will help to draw out some of the eggplant's bitterness. Set a timer for 16 minutes, roasting an additional two minutes if needed, until the eggplant is nice and tender.

What did we change?

While your eggplant is roasting, you will make your cashew ricotta, which is what Shelbert changed about the recipe. About her twist, Shelbert says, "Whipping up a cashew-based ricotta seemed like the perfect substitute for cheese. And it worked beautifully!" She also notes about why you would not want to use roasted nuts for this dish, "Raw cashews are the better option here, because they have a creamier consistency, once soaked then blended, than roasted cashews, making them a better dairy substitute. Plus their flavor is milder and doesn't overpower the add-ins, like nutritional yeast, that lends that cheesy flavor."

When you have soaked your raw cashews, drain them. Then, add them, along with the garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt, a tablespoon of lemon juice, water, and the nuts to a food processor. Your goal is to process the mixture until it achieves a creamy, ricotta-like consistency. You can add the second tablespoon of lemon juice, if necessary.

Bake your eggplant again, and serve

When your eggplant is done roasting in the oven, remove it and divide the marinara evenly over each slice. Next, layer on the cashew ricotta mixture. The final step before baking your eggplant again is to mix the panko breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Do this by adding both ingredients to a small bowl, and tossing the mixture with a fork. 

Sprinkle an even amount of breadcrumbs over the top of the eggplant slices. Now, the eggplant goes back in the oven for 12 minutes. The final flourish before serving up this savory meal is to top each serving with some torn, fresh basil. Basil adds a nice flavor to the recipe, and it looks nice, too. This is when you can add red pepper flakes if a bit of hot spice is desired. Enjoy this dish with a side salad, and a true sense of satisfaction that you totally nailed a healthier version of Giada De Laurentiis' eggplant parmesan recipe!

Giada's Eggplant Parmesan With A Twist
4.9 from 13 ratings
This dairy-free take on Giada's eggplant parmesan recipe certainly doesn't skimp on the flavor.
Prep Time
Cook Time
eggplant served
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ⅔ cup raw cashews (soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup marinara
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ⅓ cup basil leaves, torn
Optional Ingredients
  • red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Slice eggplants lengthwise into ½-inch slices, and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment.
  3. Score the eggplant, careful not to cut the eggplant entirely through.
  4. Rub the eggplant evenly with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt.
  5. Roast the eggplant until tender, 16 to 18 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the cashew ricotta by placing the drained cashews, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and water into a food processor. Process until it reaches a creamy ricotta consistency. Add the second tablespoon of lemon juice, if necessary. Then, set aside.
  7. Remove eggplant from the oven, and divide the marinara evenly over the eggplant slices, followed by a layer of the cashew ricotta.
  8. Mix the panko breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Top the eggplant with the breadcrumb mixture.
  9. Place the eggplant back into the oven for 12 minutes.
  10. Remove the eggplant from the oven, and top with the torn basil.
Calories per Serving 281
Total Fat 19.6 g
Saturated Fat 3.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 23.9 g
Dietary Fiber 7.7 g
Total Sugars 9.2 g
Sodium 597.7 mg
Protein 6.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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