Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breaded Eggplant Mini Pizzas with Homemade Sauce

What a wonderful few days this has been! It’s amazing what just a week’s time can do to change the seasons of our lives. Not only has the actual season turned from summer to fall (my favorite time of year!), but I also got a new job that I know I will love, after months of searching and hoping. As I write this blog post with a purring cat curled up on my lap, an oversized sweater keeping me cozy, and a bright outlook for the near future, I feel content (now someone knock on wood, so I don’t jinx it!).

And in honor of my contentment, I present to you: Eggplant Mini Pizzas! Because they are sure to make your bellies content…okay, not the best segue, I admit; but they are really tasty, and they did make my belly quite happy! 

I got the idea for these from a zucchini version I saw recently on pinterest, and the wheels started turning. I thought eggplant would be perfect, because not only are they round like a pizza, but they also hold up really well when cooked, and are super tasty. Plus, they are the perfect size for individual pizzas, and everyone can make their own flavor combo.

Getting Started

There are three main steps to this recipe: preparing and cooking the eggplant, making the sauce, and assembling and cooking the pizzas. If you have a great store bought sauce you like, feel free to skip that step and save yourself some time!

 Step 1: The Eggplant

Start by washing your eggplant and cutting it into approx. 1/2in thick rounds. (You don’t want them to be too thick, because they won’t cook all the way through; and you don’t want them to be too thin, because they will be floppy.) Next, place the slices on a flat surface (cookie sheet, plate, etc.), sprinkle both sides generously with salt, and set a timer for 30 minutes.  This step is to remove any bitterness in the eggplant.

Step 2: The Sauce

Once you have your timer going for the eggplant, you can start making your sauce. I had never made pizza sauce before, so I used a recipe from food.com. It was pretty much perfect; the only changes I made were to use fresh basil instead of dried, finely chopped garlic instead of minced, and more pepper. Feel free to use the original recipe, or the one I’ve listed below.

Begin by sautéing the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. Once tender and translucent, add the garlic and cook about another 30 seconds. Next add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for approx. 30min or until thick, stirring occasionally. Set aside…or use as dip for sliced focaccia bread sticks while you wait! Just make sure to leave enough for the pizzas ;)

Step 3: Back to the Eggplant

After the timer goes off for your eggplant slices, rinse off the salt and extra liquid, and set aside. You will be coating the slices in all-purpose flour, then egg (two eggs, whisked), then breadcrumbs, so make sure you have all of your stations set up before you begin. I really love homemade breadcrumbs for the texture, and because they are so darn easy to make, but feel free to use store bought Italian style breadcrumbs if you like! To make your own, tear apart 4 slices of fresh bread and toss into a blender or food processor with 2tbs Italian seasoning, and pulse until the right consistency. 

To pan fry, generously coat your skillet with olive oil, and once your slices are breaded, brown on both sides over medium heat. Add more oil for each batch if needed. Once browned and tender, place on a wire rack coated with paper towels to cool and remove excess oil.

Step 4: The pizzas

Now that your eggplant “crust” is ready, top with the pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, and your favorite ingredients; and broil them on a cookie sheet (or something of the like) until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about 5 min). I’ve included some of our favorites below:
  • Combination: mozzarella cheese, sliced black olives, sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced green bell peppers, thinly sliced yellow onion, and sliced grape tomatoes
  • Caprese: mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and sliced grape tomatoes
  • Mushroom & Olive: mozzarella cheese, sliced black olives, and sliced mushrooms
  • Dustin’s Breath Bomber: mozzarella cheese, and anchovies
  • Simply Artichoke: mozzarella cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts (cut into smaller pieces)
Wrapping it up

Honestly, this one took me a LONG time to make. If I would have bought premade sauce and breadcrumbs, it definitely would have shortened the time, but I like homemade breadcrumbs, and that sauce was incredible! I think next time I will make the sauce beforehand and save myself some time later on. Other than that, I was really happy with how these turned out. They were kind of a mix between eggplant parmesan and pizza, and what could be better than that? I also really enjoyed getting to try so many different flavors…although I could have done without the anchovies…apparently it’s an “acquired” taste ;)

What kind of pizza is your favorite? What combos would you try? I would love to know!

Ingredients for Pizza Sauce
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1, 8oz can tomato sauce
1, 6oz can tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbs fresh, finely chopped basil
1/4 tsp pepper
Makes about 1 pint

Ingredients for Breadcrumbs

4 pieces fresh bread (don’t use stale or really dry bread)
2 Tbs Italian seasoning

Other Ingredients
1 Eggplant
Olive oil for frying
All-purpose flour for coating eggplant slices
2 eggs for coating eggplant slices
Fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded or thinly sliced
Toppings of your choice

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