It is the perfect culmination of rich, Italian cheeses, savory tomato sauce, and the sweet, yet subtly bitter taste of eggplant. This delectable dish has been gracing people’s tables for over two centuries!
However, it can be quite the undertaking to make, causing most to only enjoy it on rare and special occasions.
For those who want to have this mouthwatering meal ready at any time, can you freeze eggplant parmesan before baking? We have the eggs-cellent details!
You can freeze eggplant parmesan before baking, BUT there is one big caveat. You still have to fry the eggplant prior to assembling the entire dish. This means that some cooking does have to occur before the freezing process.
Moreover, the eggplant must be salted for at least an hour in order to retain the optimal consistency. Once frozen, this unbaked dish will last up to three months in the freezer.
Important Info You Need To Know About Eggplant
In case you didn’t know, eggplant is a type of squash (Guinea squash or aubergine) that is closely related to tomatoes and potatoes.
However, unlike its nightshade fruit and vegetable cousins, this meaty gourd requires some extra steps to properly prepare it.
This includes salting the assumed vegetable to remove the copious amount of water (a whopping 92%) that is encased within its beautiful purple exterior.
This required step prevents the dish from becoming soggy by making the flesh more firm.
This, in turn, prevents it from soaking up too much oil and fat during the cooking process.
Moreover, this step removes some of the bitter aspects of this berry AND it makes this an optimal dish to freeze!
Experts note that while you can only store eggplants in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, they can safely last in the freezer for up to eight months!
Additionally, just like the tomato, the skin and seeds are edible.
Large eggplants will be tough whereas smaller specimens will be tender and require less cook time.
It is important to select eggplants that do not have any bruising or large imperfections.
Moreover, once sliced, remove any seeds that have turned brown as they will give your recipe a strong bitter taste.
How To Freeze Eggplant Parmesan Before Baking?
Step #1: Prepare The Eggplant
This is the tedious part of making eggplant parmesan. Salting requires at least an hour, but most chefs recommend letting it sit for a few hours to achieve an optimal consistency of the dish.
Thus, wash the exterior of the fruit and then slice the eggplant into ½ to ¾ inch rounds.
Align the circle-shaped slices on a cookie sheet or wire rack (best situated over the sink) and apply a generous helping of coarse kosher salt to each piece. Set aside for a few hours.
Once the time has passed, rinse off the salt and then place the eggplant pieces on paper towels.
Gently press the slices with another double layer of paper towels to remove any excess water.
Step #2: Fry The Eggplant
Next, pull out three bowls and a large skillet. Fill one bowl with flour, one with three gently beaten eggs, and one with fine breadcrumbs.
Finally, fill up the skillet halfway with extra virgin olive oil, turning on medium heat.Once the oil is popping, take your eggplant slices and coat both sides in flour.
Then, dip them in the eggs (applying just a light layer) and finish them off with a hefty coat of breadcrumbs.
Place the now breaded slices into the oil, flipping them as they become golden brown.
This should take a total of four to six minutes for each slice. Finally, remove them from the oil and place them on a wire cooling rack. Let the excess oil drip off and the slices cool.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Allow the eggplant to cool on the counter, but ensure that it is for less than two hours. Otherwise, dangerous bacteria could start to grow.
Step #3: Prepare Any Other Ingredients
While all of this is occurring, if you choose to make your own sauce, take the time to prepare it and then allow it to cool (the same cooling guidelines listed above will apply). You also have the option of using a store-bought sauce — we recommend Rao’s Homemade Marinara or Little Italy in the Bronx Marinara.
Step #4: Assemble The Eggplant Parmesan To Freeze
Take your freezer-safe baking container — this can be a disposable aluminum container, a pyrex freezer, an oven-safe container, or a cookie sheet — and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
Next, layer it with a cup of tomato sauce. Once the eggplant has had ample time to cool, then lay the fried slices side by side, covering the bottom of the pan.
Apply another layer of sauce and then an ample helping of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Soft cheeses do not freeze well due to their high moisture content. Thus, make sure to purchase low moisture mozzarella. If this is not done, the texture and consistency of the dish will change.
You also have the option to hold off on applying the mozzarella until the day you plan to cook the dish.
Since it is the top layer, waiting on this step will not hinder the preparation of the eggplant parmesan to freeze before baking.
Step #5: Apply Recommended Storage Techniques To Freeze Eggplant Parmesan To Bake Later
Finally, take a piece of freezer plastic wrap and adhere it over the top of the baking container.
Then, apply a second layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Label the prepackaged meal with the date and then freeze at a consistent zero degrees Fahrenheit for up to three months.
Step #6: Bake Your Frozen Eggplant Parmesan
Once it comes time to debut your signature dish, simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
The best part of this meal is that it can go directly from the freezer to the oven! Bake until the top layer of cheese is bubbling and changes to a beautiful golden brown color.
The time will depend on the thickness you chose for your eggplant slices as well as the size of your dish (anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes).
Most importantly, check on it regularly. Finally, when it is baked to perfection, allow 5 to 10 minutes for it to cool and garnish it with your favorite Italian spices. Then, serve and enjoy!
Make a point to eat the cooked dish within three to five days to avoid spoilage. Also, since it has already been frozen, do not freeze it again.
How To Freeze Eggplant Parmesan After Baking?
If you choose to cook the entirety of the dish and then freeze it, the process is quite similar. Follow steps #1 through #4 as directed.
The only changes will be that you should allow the fried eggplant to sit for approximately ten minutes on the wire rack, not one to two hours.
Additionally, warm your tomato sauce, but don’t worry about allowing it to cool either.
Then, skip step #5 for now and go directly to step #6. The only other alteration will be the cooking time, which will drop to approximately 45 minutes.
Once the eggplant parmesan is golden brown, then take it out of the oven and allow it to cool on the counter for just under two hours.
If this is not enough time, then transfer it to the fridge and make a point to place a dish towel underneath to avoid hot and cold glass from coming into contact with one another.
Once you can safely touch the bottom of the pan with your hand, follow the instructions for storage in step #5.
Again, store for up to three months. Finally, when reheating, the cooking time will also be less.
Cook until the dish reaches your preferred temperature and the cheese begins to bubble.
How To Properly Freeze Fresh Eggplant
Finally, for those who still want to make their Eggplant Parm fresh, but want to cut back on their preparation time, there is good news!
Your eggplant can be frozen before and after frying. No matter which option you choose, follow the instruction in step #1.
To freeze without frying, you must then blanch your eggplant slices. Food experts at New Mexico State University advise you to “water blanch for 4 min in 1 gallon of boiling water containing 1 1/2 tablespoons citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice. Alternatively, sauté in oil.”
Once this is done, allow the slices to cool for less than two hours. Conversely, if you choose to fry your eggplant ahead of time, proceed to step #2.
Next, take a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and layout your eggplant slices. Place in the freezer overnight, allowing the eggplant pieces to flash freeze.
Then, transfer them to freezer-safe bags or airtight freezer containers. The fried eggplant will last up to three months, but the blanched eggplant will stay fresh for up to eight months!
We Thought You Would Like
Making Eggplant Parmesan freeze before or after baking is a fantastic way to meal prep for a large family or for a party of one!
When assembling this fantastic cuisine, think about how many people will be eating when you finally choose to bake it.
This is especially important with rich dishes that tend to fill up bellies more quickly than lighter fares. It can help to cut back on food waste.
It is also important that you avoid adding ricotta cheese to this recipe. That product does not freeze well.
However, if you do choose to include this ingredient, make a point to remove as much of the whey as possible from this cheese bi-product.
Additionally, by adding this to your dish, you diminish the freezer storage time to two months instead of three so think twice before throwing caution to the wind! Bon Appétit!
Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for over a decade.