Air Fried Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
Air Fried Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich- Crispy eggplant medallions are topped with marinara, smothered in mozzarella, then sandwiched between toasted ciabatta bread schmeared with pesto butter.
April 18, 2022 by Nicole Collins
It’s Meatless Monday!
Even though I’ve been meatless for the past 6 weeks, we really haven’t formally celebrated Meatless Monday in a hot minute.
So, no time like the present in my opinion!
A friend of mine recently got an air fryer, so I got to re-live those moments of first time air fryer joys with her. We even named her air fryer Florence!
Side note…we really wanted to name the air fryer Frida, but we work with a Frida who is an absolute nightmare. And, we didn’t want to put that kind of bad juju on her sweet new air fryer.
Anywho, experiencing her air frying chronicles with her really inspired me. And, that’s how today’s recipe was born.
Today, we’re making an Air Fried Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich!
This sandwich is LOADED. There is so much happening in these sammies that even the most avid meat eater won’t miss the meat one little bit!
Here’s how this is going to go down: we’re going to slice and bread some eggplant, and air fry it until it’s golden and crispy. Then we’re going to grab a ciabatta roll, schmear one side with pesto butter and one side with marinara. Then, we’ll layer our crispy eggplant and some fresh mozzarella over the marinara, pop the whole sandwich back into the air fryer, and let the cheese get melty and the bread get toasty. Does that sound like a dream, or what?
So, let’s get to it!
We’ll start with the eggplant. We’re going to slice our eggplant into roughly half inch rounds, salt them on both sides, and let them sit for a half hour on some paper towels before we do anything else. There are different schools of thought when it comes to salting eggplant before cooking it, but I do it 100% of the time. Salting first does help to draw out some of the natural bitterness of the fruit. But, it really helps to draw out the extra moisture. We want crispy eggplant, not soggy eggplant. So use that half hour while your eggplant is resting to work on gathering the rest of the ingredients for this recipe.
After the eggplant has done its thing, we’re going to pat it down really well to soak up all that extra liquid, and it’s ready for breading. We’re going to set up a standard breading station of flour, egg, and panko seasoned with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Then, we’ll give the breaded eggplant a spritz of olive oil cooking spray to help it crisp up. And, to the air fryer it goes for about 10 minutes until it’s perfectly golden and crispy.
Depending on the size of your air fryer, you’ll likely have to cook the eggplant in batches. So in between batches, let your crispy eggplant rest on a wire rack. That way, the bottoms won’t get soggy from sitting in their own warmth. Because nobody wants soggy eggplant in a sandwich!
After the eggplant is all cooked, it’s time to assemble to sandwich. We’re going to slice our ciabatta rolls in half, and give the bottom of the roll a healthy schmear of marinara sauce. Then, we’ll layer a couple slices of our crispy eggplant on top of the marinara. And, sliced pieces of fresh mozzarella will go on top of the eggplant. On the top roll, we’re going to spread a simple mixture of prepared pesto and softened butter all over the surface. Then, the sandwiches go back into the air fryer, in their open faced state, for the rolls to get toasty and the cheese to get nice and melty. After they sandwiches have a few minutes to toast, we can close the sandwich by putting that pesto butter toasted bread over the cheesy eggplant. And, it’s time to chow down.
This sandwich is pure heaven. The ciabatta roll is perfectly crunchy on the outside while still being light and fluffy on the inside. The eggplant is golden and crisp on the outside but sweet and creamy on the inside. The marinara is rich and comforting while the pesto adds some bright freshness to the party. And that gooey, stringy mozzarella makes the whole sandwich feel like a decadent treat. It’s so hearty and filling despite there not being an ounce of meat in sight!
Ok, everyone. You guys have done a great job hanging in there on this meatless journey with me. Should we keep going, or is it time to start adding some chicken back to the menu?
In the meantime, enjoy! And, let’s eat!
Air Fried Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
Serves: 4 Print
For the Eggplant:
1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb)
1 tsp + ½ tsp salt, divided
½ cup flour
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp garlic powder
Olive oil cooking spray
For the Sandwich:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp prepared pesto
4 ciabatta rolls, split
¾ cup marinara sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
Prepare the eggplant: Slice both ends off the eggplant. Slice eggplant to roughly ½ inch thick slices. Line a large baking tray with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt on both sides of the cut eggplant. Let sit for 25-30 mins.
Meanwhile, prepare the pesto butter: In a small mixing bowl, combine softened butter and pesto. Mix well to combine. Set aside.
Prepare the eggplant breading station: To a shallow bowl, add flour, ½ tsp salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. To a second shallow bowl, add well beaten eggs. To a third shallow bowl, add panko, parmesan, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Mix to combine. Set aside.
Blot both sides of the eggplant with a paper towel to absorb the moisture and extra salt. Remove the wet paper towels, and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a slice of eggplant and dredge both sides in the flour mix, shaking off any excess flour. Dip the eggplant in the beaten egg to coat both sides, and let any excess drip off. Place the eggplant slice in panko mix, and press gently to adhere the mix to both sides. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining slices. Spritz the top of the eggplant with olive oil cooking spray.
Preheat air fryer to 390 degrees. Place eggplant, oiled side down, in a single layer in the basket. Spritz the top of the eggplant with cooking spray, and air fry for 5 mins. Flip the eggplant slices, spritz the tops with cooking spray, and cook an additional 4-5 mins until the eggplant slices are golden brown. Transfer cooked eggplant to a wire rack, and repeat with remaining slices as necessary.
Assemble the sandwich: Spread 3 tbsp marinara sauce over the bottom of each ciabatta roll. Top with eggplant and mozzarella slices, evenly divided between the sandwiches. Schmear pesto butter over the top of each ciabatta roll. Place ciabatta halves in the air fryer, still set at 390 degrees, mozzarella and pesto butter side up. Cook for 4-5 mins until the mozzarella has melted. Close the sandwich by placing the top bun over the melted mozzarella. Repeat as necessary with remaining sandwich halves. Serve immediately!
*I recommend using freshly grated parmesan as opposed to the shelf stable parmesan that comes in a can. You can also buy freshly grated parmesan in the cheese section of the grocery store, and that works great here too.
*We want to use the fresh mozzarella that comes in a ball or log for this recipe, not the pre-shredded or “hard” mozzarella.
*Using a wire rack to hold the cooked eggplant while other batches are cooking helps to prevent the eggplant from getting soggy on the bottom. Nobody wants that!
*This Ninja Foodi air fryer is the one I use, and I LOVE it!
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