Eggplant Parmesan is a dish I grew up eating—both at my Nonna’s house in the Bronx and any red checkered tablecloth Italian joint. This version is lightened up thanks to the air fryer, but still delivers on the promise of crispy eggplant smothered in red sauce and ooey gooey cheese. The best part: it comes together in a snap and there is no oil to clean up after dinner. So, pour yourself a glass of chianti and enjoy!
Preheat a 6-quart air fryer to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a couple grinds of pepper in a shallow bowl. Whisk together the eggs and a splash of water in a second shallow bowl. Whisk together the panko, Parmesan, dried Italian herb seasoning, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a couple grinds of pepper in a third shallow bowl.
Dip the eggplant slices into the flour mixture and shake off any excess. Place into the egg wash and flip to evenly coat. Allow any excess egg to drip off, then press in the panko mixture, making sure both sides are evenly coated. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
Gently place half of the breaded eggplant into the air fryer basket, shingling to create a single layer. Cook, shaking the tray halfway through to separate any rounds that may have stuck together, until golden brown and crispy, 13 to 15 minutes. Place the cooked eggplant on the prepared baking sheet, then repeat with the remaining uncooked breaded eggplant.
Meanwhile, stir together the tomato sauce, the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and the chopped basil in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until simmering and warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Line the air fryer basket with parchment, then add half of the cooked eggplant in a single layer. Cover the eggplant to the edges with 1 cup of the seasoned tomato sauce. Top with 8 ounces of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining cooked eggplant, 1 cup seasoned tomato sauce and 8 ounces mozzarella to create a second layer. Cook until the edges are deeply golden brown and the cheese melts, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove to a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired. Serve immediately, although it will be even better the next day!
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