Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

My better half had just returned from three days of driving across and around two states. I knew she would be tired and not in the mood to eat much at all. Sitting in a car all day will do that to a person. Fortunately, I had a spare eggplant and some noodles so I knew, with a little help from some spices, I could create a nice dinner she could not refuse. And it only took about 30 minutes to prep and cook!

Sweet and Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and start heating a large stock pot of salted water for the pasta.


1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise, between a quarter and a half inch in thickness

Olive oil, you will need a good bit of this. Just keep the bottle handy.

8 oz. angel hair pasta (capellini)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lime juice

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


Tip: to keep the eggplant slices from sticking to the baking sheet and casserole dish, you may want to apply a light coat of cooking spray first.

Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush a little olive oil onto each slice.

Turn the slices over and brush olive oil onto the eggplant, just as before. Place eggplant slices (still on the baking sheet, silly) into the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the eggplant slices start to brown.

By now your pasta water should be boiling. Add the angel hair pasta, stir once with a wooden spoon, and let cook.

Once the eggplant has browned on top, using an oven mitt (hot oven, remember?) and a metal spatula, flip the eggplant slices, then bake for another 10 minutes.

Time for the sauce!

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sea salt. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

When the eggplant has finished baking, remove from the oven BUT DO NOT TURN OFF THE OVEN.

Layer the eggplant slices in a 9×13 casserole dish, offsetting the slices slightly. Drizzle the sauce over the eggplant. Bake in the oven one more time, for 10 minutes.

Your pasta should be done by now. Drain in a colander, then return the cooked pasta to the pan and cover.

Tip: to help keep the noodles from sticking together, gently stir in a tablespoon or two of butter.

Putting It All Together

Begin by creating a nice bed of cooked pasta in the center of your dinner plate.

Place 4 or 5 eggplant slices on top of the pasta.

Sprinkle a few chopped mint leaves on top of the eggplant.’

Finish by sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese over everything.

Kripyā bhojan kā ānnaṅd lijīyai! (enjoy the meal!)

Franco’s Italian – Norfolk, Virginia


Franco's Italian in Norfolk, Virginia

Tucked away in a small shopping center off the corner of Norview Avenue and Military Highway in central Norfolk is a hidden gem called Franco’s Italian. If you live or work in the area, you probably already know about Franco’s. If you don’t, you probably haven’t been there yet.  But you should go. Really.

Franco’s is a small place. There are a fair number of tables and booths, all positioned to make the most of the limited square footage. When it gets crowded, you will have to wind your way around people and chairs to get from the door to your spot. If you are already seated, be prepared to have people brush against you as they pass by. Personally, I am okay with this intimacy given the quality of the food. If you aren’t, well, I told you so. Just pretend you are in New York City.

Back to the food.

I have been to Franco’s for both lunch and dinner, once with a good friend and once with my family. We all agreed, this is a great place to get tasty, made-from-scratch Italian food. I did not get a chance to speak with him, but I think Franco was cooking in the back. The servers were good, not too intrusive, yet helpful when needed. Some people have mentioned they aren’t too friendly, but I have not seen anything of the sort.  In fact, our server last night was great – bringing us warm pizza bread without us having to ask. And you have to ask, since it’s not on the menu. Consider yourself a local now. Ask for the pizza bread.

I had the peppers and sausage grinder for lunch, and the penne with meatballs for dinner (on separate days – the lunch was so filling I doubt I could have made a second trip within hours.)  I’m telling you, nothing beats a homemade meatball, the kind fashioned with veal and pork goodness. These were awesome. Moist, full of flavor, possessing a gentle texture. And fairly big, too. Size matters with meatballs, especially if they are this savory.

My wife had the Eggplant Parmesan, which she was very happy to receive. I had the leftovers today and I can see why she was so happy. The marinara sauce was beautiful; and not too acidic. My daughter, who favors plain noodles, ordered the linguine with oil and garlic sauce. All I can say is she was a very, very happy camper! Portions were more than generous and the bread products were either baked on site (the pizza bread) or baked locally and delivered daily. I took the photo in the morning, just as the bakery dropped off the day’s grinder rolls.

There is one problem with Franco’s Italian and I would be remiss if I did not mention it now. There are so many great sounding items on the menu, you will want to keep going back to try new dishes. I have already decided that on my next visit, dinner will start with mussels in wine sauce, followed by puttanesca over spaghetti.  Puttanesca, for those not familiar, involves anchovies, olives, capers, garlic and marinara sauce.

And people seem to rave about all of the grinders and pizza. Will there ever be enough time to try them all?

I hope so!


Franco’s is located at 6200 North Military Highway in central Norfolk, just down the street from the airport. Look for the Shell gas station on the corner; Franco’s is way in the back. They are closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and through Sunday for Dinner.

(757) 853-0177


Major credit cards and cash accepted.

Beer and wine on premises.

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