Comfort food made healthy, this cheesy eggplant casserole layers eggplant with protein-rich turkey and mozzarella. The best part? It bakes up in 30 minutes!
As I was planning for recipes this fall, I realized I didn’t have that many casserole recipes on my site. Time to change that! I love making casseroles for a hearty, family sized meal. We love leftovers so I often make a casserole like this for just the two of us and we enjoy leftovers for a couple of nights. It’s the best.
This is also the perfect recipe to bring to new parents or friends and family that are in need of a meal. It feels like baby girl is going to make her arrival any day now and I know I’d happily accept this meal when I’m running on empty!
You can bring just this casserole or whip up a simple side salad to pair with it for a complete meal.
What Does Eggplant Taste Like?
If you’ve never tried eggplant before, don’t be scared! You willlove eggplant in no time. It has a really mild flavor and when cooked properly, takes on the surrounding flavors of the dish. You can leave the skin on or peel it if you prefer. I find that the skin gets really soft when eggplant is baked in a casserole like this so I never take the time to peel it.
Eggplant is a super simple vegetable to work with. One thing to note with eggplant is that it holds a lot of water. In order to make sure the casserole doesn’t end up soupy or extra watery, you simply sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices ahead of time to pull the water from it.
Ingredients in Eggplant Casserole
eggplant – when picking an eggplant, make sure yours is firm but not hard. It should be smooth and shiny, not dull which means its turning bitter and it should be a rich, dark purple color with even coloring and no streaking. Eggplants are full of moisture so after slicing be sure to sprinkle with salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
turkey – a lean protein option, but ground beef will work too. You can also use tofu or mashed chickpeas for a vegetarian option.
cheese – we’re using shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
spices – a little salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning.
How to Make this Eggplant Casserole
Prep Eggplant –Start by cutting your eggplant into slices. Place on a flat surface and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. This allows the water to be pulled out of the eggplant, making sure that the casserole doesn’t end up super watery. Blot the eggplant slices with a paper towel.
Make Sauce –To make your sauce, sauté your garlic in a little olive oil over medium heat and then add the ground turkey along with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Break up the turkey as it cooks. When the turkey is no longer pink, add the tomato sauce to the pan and stir to combine.
Build Casserole –It’s time to build your casserole! Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Spread a little turkey sauce into the bottom of the pan and add a layer of eggplant slices. Top with half the turkey sauce mixture, add another layer of eggplant and top with the remaining turkey sauce. Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese.
Bake – Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. The tinfoil keeps the cheese from getting too browned! Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes.
Serve –Serve with grated parmesan cheese.
How to Serve
This casserole is hearty and filling on its own, but here are some serving suggestions:
Cutthe eggplant widthwise (into rounds) about 1/4-1/3 inch thick. Brush, rub or spray a little olive oil on each side of the eggplant slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking stone. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until eggplant is hot and starting to cook down. Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, heat ½ Tablespoon olive oil in large sauté pan. Once hot, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add ground turkey into the pan, season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Cook, breaking turkey apart until turkey is cooked through and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add sauce to the pan and combine. Remove from heat.
Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread a little of the turkey sauce into the bottom of the pan and then add a layer of eggplant. Top with half the turkey sauce mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, top with the remaining turkey sauce mixture. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
Bake eggplant dish uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Cheese should be melted and bubbly. Remove from oven, let rest for 5 minutes and serve