Rachael Ray Says To Slice Your Vegetables This Way For Perfect Baked Eggplant

If there's one thing celebrity chef and talk show host Rachael Ray knows a thing or two about, it is Italian cooking. Her lifelong passion for the cuisine is attributed to her Sicilian grandfather (via NPR). So when it comes to a traditional Italian dish such as eggplant parmesan, it makes sense that Ray wouldn't go for American-style — breaded and fried — and opts instead for a baked version. "It's healthier and easier, and a whole lot quicker, if you roast the eggplant and layer with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parm," Ray said on the "Rachael Ray" show website.

If you're going to bake an eggplant yourself, you may be stumped on how to go about working with the peculiar purple vegetable. Do you halve it like spaghetti squash first? Do you cut it into round disks? Cubes? If you want your eggplant to bake evenly and take on the best texture, Ray has one suggestion: planks.

Rachael Ray recommends slicing eggplant into planks

In a recent episode of the "Rachael Ray" show, Ray demonstrated how she prepares eggplant for baking by slicing it into thin fillets that can be layered neatly into a casserole dish (via Instagram). This makes for an aesthetically pleasing meal, and you only have to flip the eggplant planks once during baking, for optimal browning on both sides. Since eggplant has an amazing ability to soak up whatever seasoning is applied to it, this approach also results in better flavor (via Cutco).

According to the instructions for traditional Italian eggplant parmesan on the "Rachael Ray" show website, the eggplant should be sliced thinly, to a ¼-inch thickness. Salt the eggplant planks and allow them to drain on kitchen towels for at least 30 minutes. This ensures the eggplant doesn't absorb too much oil during cooking.

As for what kind of sauce to make for eggplant parmesan, Ray recommended keeping it simple. In her demonstration posted to Instagram, she whipped up a tasty red sauce with canned tomatoes, tomato puree, onion, garlic, basil, ground red pepper flakes, and balsamic drizzle. When it came time to put the full baked eggplant dish together, she filled a casserole dish with alternating layers of the sauce, eggplant planks, parmesan, and mozzarella. The end result was a mouthwatering comfort food you'll want to eat again and again.