We're all very familiar with the classics: chicken, veal and eggplant parm, as well as the ever-so-quirky shrimp parmesan that makes its way onto some menus. I wasn't feeling poultry and Hubby isn't a fan of eggplant, so aside from serving up a dish of sauce with melted mozzarella (probably would've been really delicious), I decided to experiment using a staple we both enjoy: portabella mushrooms.
This hearty, meat-like vegetable stands up nicely to a garlic breadcrumb coating and makes for a much healthier twist when oven baked instead of fried. The bare dusting of flour and quick dunk in eggs (only two for the entire recipe) makes this a pretty healthy meal. When paired with fresh leafy green spinach and an olive oil-based tomato sauce, it's also a great way to slide extra veggies into your family's dinner. (Just don't tell them I put you up to it!)
Deeelish Alert: I tried the breaded mushrooms right out of the oven and holy moly they are fantastic! A finger food offering a crispy, peppery coating and a warm, rich center? You really can't argue with that.
I was very tempted to either:
A. Refer to them as portabella fries and call it a night OR
B. Eat the whole tray myself and tell Hubby we were having the aforementioned dish of sauce with melted mozzarella for dinner.
After sneaking a few and secretly wishing there would be more left over, I went on with my original plan. The sweet and tangy homemade marinara balances perfectly with layers of tender mushrooms and bright spinach, while reduced fat mozzarella implies full justification to finish off with some finely grated, full-fat fontina cheese.
12 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms (Available in 6 oz. packages)
1/2 -- 3/4 cup garlic and herb breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute if desired)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch sugar
3 cups fresh spinach
3/4 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup finely grated fontina cheese
Preheat oven to 400º and season eggs with salt and pepper. Fill three separate bowls with flour, seasoned egg and breadcrumbs.
Rinse mushrooms and pat dry with a paper towel. Dunk each mushroom in the flour. Next in the egg, wiping off any access drippings. Lastly, in breadcrumbs.
Place breaded mushrooms on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. While mushrooms are in the oven, prepare sauce by sauteing minced garlic in olive oil until slightly browned.
Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic powder and sugar.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. When sauce is ready, spoon 1/4 cup into the bottom of a baking dish. Place a layer of spinach at the bottom. Cover with a layer of mushrooms. Top with sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the layering process using remaining ingredients (spinach, mushrooms, sauce, mozzarella), then finish with fontina. Bake for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Eat and enjoy over pasta, on crusty Italian bread or as is!
Jenn Press Arata is a food writer and blogger. Visit her blog at thatssojenn.com.