Even the worst eggplant Parmesan is fairly good. However one factor it is going to by no means be is unapologetically crispy.

“Eggplant Parm is simply form of …,” Angie Rito paused earlier than ending her sentence, “ … mushy?” Not in a nasty method, mentioned Ms. Rito, who owns Don Angie, an Italian American restaurant within the West Village, however “virtually custardy, smooth.”

The flavors and textures meld. Nobody element stands out. Scott Tacinelli, who additionally owns Don Angie (and is married to Ms. Rito), mentioned the traditional dish won’t even be concerning the eggplant, however about the way it turns into “a car to carry every part collectively,” a clean canvas to absorb taste, particularly that of olive oil.

For those who’re not utilizing “an entire bottle of olive oil” when making eggplant Parm, he mentioned, then what are you even doing?

Like Elton John and Kiki Dee, Ms. Rito and Mr. Tacinelli end one another’s sentences, typically speaking concurrently — not over one another, however via.

When requested, as an illustration, concerning the distinction between Italian and Italian American meals, the couple, who co-wrote the 2021 cookbook “Italian American,” baton-passed the reply.

Twenty years in the past, Mr. Tacinelli mentioned, “Italian meals in america was simply Italian American meals, proper?” Ms. Rito added that what turned broadly often known as Italian American was “principally derived from Southern Italian traditions” that got here to this nation with the earliest immigrants from Naples and Sicily.

Eggplant, the versatile purple nightshade, has lengthy been central to each Italian and Italian American cuisines. (Ms. Rito and Mr. Tacinelli’s very first dialog was about caponata, the Sicilian dish of chopped, fried eggplants and greens. The connection, they mentioned, was prompt.)

The primary factor the couple agrees on is {that a} true eggplant Parmesan, particularly the Italian American model, takes some effort. However that doesn’t imply it has to take without end.

Understanding what makes an eggplant Parm an eggplant Parm may help house cooks streamline or iterate — and, in the end, make it extra of a staple.

For Amanda Shulman, a chef in Philadelphia, the dish is outlined by her mom, who would convey it house from the native deli and reheat slices between bread in a panini press. These sandwiches have been, she mentioned, like eggplant Parm Sizzling Pockets.

Later, when Ms. Shulman lived and cooked in Bergamo, within the Lombardy area of northern Italy, her colleagues would convey of their grandmothers’ variations of eggplant Parm, which within the outdated nation is mostly made with out breading.

“All people’s grandmother had a melanzane,” she mentioned.

At present, at her restaurant Her Place Supper Membership, Ms. Shulman presses fried Japanese eggplant slices right into a loaf pan with tomato-butter sauce and cheese — “terrine type,” she described it — earlier than baking and chilling it. For service, she reheats slices of the loaf, “like a cake,” in a scorching oven till crispy on the underside. You may eat it heat or straight from the fridge, she mentioned, “like pizza or chilly lasagna.”

That’s how Mr. Tacinelli additionally remembers consuming it. “It’s virtually higher as leftovers,” he mentioned. However his nonnegotiable? The eggplant slices “should be skinny and breaded,” to allow them to absorb the olive oil. Too thick, and the eggplant will keep spongy even after a protracted bake.

Ms. Rito remembers her childhood Parm as a layered room-temperature casserole, sliced from the deli case of her grandfather’s Sicilian bakery, Rito’s, in Cleveland. Dried oregano and recent basil, Ms. Rito mentioned, lent “a really particularly Italian American taste.”

Each Mr. Tacinelli and Ms. Rito agree on pecorino and Parmesan, twin flames of Italian American cooking — and that eggplant Parm simply isn’t meant to be crispy.

The truth is, the expectation of crispiness betrays what makes the dish uniquely itself: a young, virtually gooey, fork-yielding slice of labor, like a lasagna with home made noodles. (However ought to the highest layer of cheese get good and toasty within the casserole’s last bake, then so be it.)

This recipe streamlines the method so the cooking can really feel enjoyable on a Sunday afternoon. Lengthy planks of panko-breaded eggplant crisp up gloriously within the oven, which implies not one of the conventional frying. One other advantage of roasting is the fruit’s concentrated earthy, smoky taste, which makes this model the apotheosis of aubergine.

Retailer-bought jarred marinara sauce works fantastically right here, but it surely’s as much as you; home made can lend its personal character.

You must make your eggplant Parm the way in which you prefer it — and most necessary, in a method that works together with your life. Eat it recent out of the oven, or from the fridge a day later. There’s nothing like pulling a person portion out of the freezer to make you are feeling wealthy in time.

And isn’t time itself essentially the most coveted factor?

“My grandma would cook dinner for seven hours a day, simply to arrange a meal for her and my grandpa,” Ms. Rito mentioned. “She was the most effective cook dinner I’ve ever met in my life, as a result of she put within the time.”