What a fun idea this was! Of course, chicken parmigiana is a classic Italian dish, whether served as a sandwich or alongside pasta. Fortunately for vegetarians, eggplant parmigiana is very nearly always available at Italian restaurants as well.
When it’s done right it’s sublime. When it’s bad it’s very very bad. It usually ends up a greasy soggy mess. Good thing I have a wonderful recipe for eggplant parmigiana and that is very delicious!
But if you don’t like eggplant or possibly want something meatier what to do? It occurred to me that tofu might make an admirable stand-in for eggplant (and chicken)!
This is prepared very close to the way I make the eggplant version. And tofu, much like eggplant, will be a little vacuum cleaner and suck up all the oil that you care to give it.
So you have to maintain a balance between enough oil at the correct temperature and a quick enough fry that you don’t end up using the whole bottle! For this recipe I managed to get it down to 1/4 cup olive oil for an entire package of tofu. I thought that was pretty good!
If you wish to make this vegan, just use an equal amount of breadcrumbs in place of the Parmesan and leave off the cheese on top. During the tofu dunking stage skip the eggs and dip in water then breadcrumbs. It won’t stick as well, but it will still be delicious! Substitute your favorite no-wheat flour and breadcrumbs to make it gluten free. (Chickpea flour would be very delicious.)
Serves 3 to 4
14 oz pkg extra-firm tofu, frozen and thawed
1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
black pepper, to taste
1 large egg
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
2 cups Smooth Pasta Sauce or your favorite, plus more for serving
4 thin slices provolone or mozzarella, about 4 oz
2 Tbsp Parmesan, shredded
1 lb pasta of choice, if desired
Remove the thawed tofu from the package. Place the tofu on a plate, cover with another plate, and put some weight like a large can of tomatoes or a jar of pasta sauce on top of the plate to press. Refrigerate and leave for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight, checking occasionally to drain off any water that’s collected on the plate.
Alternatively, if you’re pressed for time (no pun intended) you can use right from the package. It just won’t have quite as firm a texture.
When the tofu is ready you’re going to create 6 slabs. Cut in half lengthwise. Then take each half, flip it on its end, and carefully cut into 3 pieces.
You can also feel free to cut the tofu into whatever size shapes that you like. I was just going for relatively thin cutlets (like a chicken breast). There’s really no reason why a couple of big honking slabs wouldn’t work just as well.
Arrange 3 small bowls on your working area. Place the flour and black pepper in one and stir to combine. Whisk the egg in the second and mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan in the third.
Dip each tofu piece in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a plate. When all pieces are ready, refrigerate 30 minutes. This helps the coating adhere to the tofu better.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pour the olive oil in a large skillet and heat until just shimmery on the surface, but not smoking. You want it nice and hot, but not overly so.
Place the tofu in the skillet and cook until golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
Flip and cook until browned on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with any remaining tofu.
Spoon about 1/2 cup pasta sauce in an 8″x8″ baking pan. Arrange the tofu on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Arrange the provolone on top and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
If serving with pasta bring a large pot of water to boil. Bake the tofu 20 minutes and remove from the oven. Adjust the temperature to broil.
Cook desired pasta to package directions and drain. When ready to serve return the tofu to the oven and watch closely. It will burn very fast! Broil 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is getting brown in spots, checking every 30 seconds or so.
Remove from the oven and serve with the pasta and extra sauce if you like.
Wait! Don’t forget the breadsticks!