This open-faced eggplant Parmesan sandwich works as both a light dinner or an easy vegetarian appetizer. It packs all the flavors of classic eggplant parmesan with less fuss — no breading or frying required! Just bake the eggplant in the oven then layer it on toasted bread with melty cheese, pesto, and tomato sauce.
Eggplant is a Mediterranean diet superstar because when cooked correctly it becomes sweet and silky. It’s the perfect vehicle for soaking up bold, fresh flavors like the pasta sauce, cheeses and pesto in this open-faced eggplant sandwich recipe. Consider this my healthier take on a classic.
Traditional eggplant parmesan is breaded and fried, but for this recipe I skip all of that and opt instead for roasting the eggplant in the oven. Once roasted it’s time to layer on the flavor! Simply spread pesto and pasta sauce on toasted ciabatta bread, top it with the roasted eggplant, parmesan and mozzarella cheese, then pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes.
It’s perfect for a weeknight when I’m craving the comfort of Eggplant Parmesan but I don’t feel like doing that much work. And, since I like most things to be as easy as possible this recipe can double as a vegetarian appetizer. Just slice and serve on a platter.
The bite-sized pieces are just the right thing to snack on between conversation breaks, especially with plenty of Aperol Spritz to go around!
Table of Contents
What You Need to Make an Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
This Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich comes together quickly with a handful of easy to source ingredients. Pesto and spaghetti sauce are a beautiful match and an easy way to get that nostalgic flavor with less time. Go the extra mile and make them from scratch or if you’re in a hurry, pick-up ready-made versions at the store.
- Eggplant: You want the eggplants to maintain their shape as they roast: make sure they’re firm, shiny, and free of soft spots or bruises. Small globe or Japanese eggplants work best for Eggplant Parmesan.
- Kosher salt: Eggplants naturally have a high water content, which impedes caramelization in the oven. Salt dehydrates the eggplant, and rids it of some of its bitter flavor.
- Ciabatta: You can substitute with a French baguette or a rustic loaf, but I love ciabatta here. Toasted ciabatta somehow manages to be both sturdy and airy at the same time.
- Extra virgin olive oil: A smooth and buttery olive oil, like our Nocellara Italian EVOO, lets the eggplant’s flavor shine.
- Cheese: Melty cheese needs little justification—it’s what makes Eggplant Parm such a hit. Grab whole fresh mozzarella and Parmesan if you can, the pre-grated stuff isn’t quite the same.
- Basil pesto: A big fresh batch of homemade pesto brings this Eggplant Sandwich to the next level, but you can absolutely go for a tub at the store to save time.
- Spaghetti sauce: Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce comes together in just 35 minutes, but a store-bought marinara sauce works well too.
- Fresh basil (optional): Torn basil is used to add a pop of color and freshness.
How to Make an Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
Easy was my goal when I created this open-faced sandwich recipe: easy to make and easy to eat. That means no more breading and frying and no more forks and knives. Simply build the sandwich open-faced like a bruschetta, bake in the oven, slice, and serve.
- Salt the eggplant: Arrange the ½-inch rounds cut from 2 small eggplants on a large tray or cutting board. Sprinkle each slice on both sides with kosher salt and set aside while you get the bread ready.
- Prepare and broil the bread: Set a rack in the middle of your oven and turn to broil. Halve the ciabatta loaf lengthwise to make two long halves. Open and place on a baking sheet with the cut-side up. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil and broil. Watch for the top to turn crispy and golden brown around the edges, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Bake the eggplant: Turn the oven to 400°F. Use paper towels to wipe the eggplant well, removing excess salt and water, then spread on a large, lightly oiled sheet pan in one layer. Brush the top of each slice with olive oil and bake until the eggplant has softened and turned slightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Assemble: Spread 1 cup of pesto over the toasted side of the bread, followed by 2 cups of spaghetti sauce. Top with the roasted eggplant slices. Top each eggplant slice with a ¼-inch slice of mozzarella. Dollop each stack with a little more of the red sauce.
- Bake: Bake until the mozzarella is melted and is starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for a quick minute or two for the Parmesan to warm through.
- Slice and Serve: Slice each half of the bread into 5 to 6 pieces, with each piece having its own eggplant and cheese stack. Garnish with torn fresh basil, if using, and serve.
What to Serve with Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
This Eggplant Parmesan sandwich works well for dinner alongside a bright and crunchy salad, like this Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad that’s on the table in 5 minutes.
My absolute favorite way to serve these open-faced eggplant parmesan sandwiches, though, is as easy finger food at a party. Load up a big spread with other quick bites that are perfect for snacking in between conversations, like Stuffed Dates, Prosciutto e Melone, and Radish With Butter and Salt.
Try These Excellent Eggplant Recipes
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Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
- 2 small eggplants, sliced into ½-inch rounds
- Kosher salt
- 1 large loaf ciabatta bread, about 1 pound
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
- 2 to 3 cups pasta sauce, homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
- 10 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Fresh basil for garnish, optional, torn or snipped into small pieces
- Salt the eggplant: Arrange the eggplant rounds on a large tray or cutting board and sprinkle each slice on both sides with kosher salt. Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the bread.
- Prepare and broil the bread: Set a rack in the middle of your oven and turn on the broil function. Put the bread on a cutting board and position your non-dominant hand on top. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the ciabatta in half through the center to make two long halves. Open the two halves and place on a baking sheet with the crust-side down and the cut-side facing up. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Put the bread in the heated oven on the middle rack and watch for the top to turn crispy and golden brown around the edges, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Bake the eggplant: Turn the oven to 400°F. The eggplant should have “sweat” a bit from the salt, with beads of water appearing on the surface. Use a paper towel to wipe the eggplant well, removing excess salt and water. Arrange the eggplant slices on a large, lightly oiled sheet pan and brush the tops with olive oil. Bake on the center rack of the heated oven until the eggplant has softened and turned slightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Assemble: Spread the pesto over the toasted side of the bread, followed by ¾ of the spaghetti sauce. Top with the roasted eggplant slices, and finally, top each eggplant slice with a slice of mozzarella. Dollop each mozzarella slice with red sauce.
- Bake: Slide the sheet-pan with the assembled eggplant sandwiches on the center rack of the oven. Bake until the mozzarella is melted and has gained some color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the grated Parmesan on top. Return to the oven for a minute or two for the Parmesan to warm through.
- Slice and serve: Slice each half of the bread into 5 to 6 pieces, with each piece having its own eggplant and cheese stack. Garnish with fresh basil, if using, and serve.
- Always salt eggplant. The salt mellows any bitterness and draws out excess moisture, preventing it from getting mushy.
- If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can rub a small amount of olive oil into each eggplant slice using your fingers.
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Excellent!! This recipe was not only great tasting but very easy to put together. I used ready made pesto and pasta sauce. I prepped the eggplant as directed and I will never use eggplant again without doing so. I have refrigerated eggplant and can have another sandwich tomorrow. This eggplant sandwich is as good as any eggplant sandwich I have had in fine Italian restaurants.
Yay! Thanks, Nana!!
Such a beautiful meal! Could this be made with another type of bread instead? I don't think I can find ciabatta where I live. Thanks!
Sure! Italian or French bread would be some other good options. Enjoy!