2 28-ounce cans of whole canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano DOP
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon chile pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
2 basil sprigs
3 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup grated Parmesan, such as 24-month Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup grated Pecorino, such as Pecorino Toscano
1½ cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten
4 medium Italian eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick on a mandolin
1⅓ cups extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 cups grated parmesan, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup grated pecorino, such as Pecorino Toscano
5 1/2 cups San Marzano Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
20 basil leaves
4 cups grated whole milk mozzarella
For the Tomato Sauce:
Pulse tomatoes in a food processor until broken up but still chunky. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and salt. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chile flakes and stir. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and allow to cook over medium-high heat until the sauce comes to a boil, about 1-2 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and season with sugar. Add the basil. The sauce is ready to be used at this point, or it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three weeks. Remove garlic and basil before serving.
For the Eggplant:
In a shallow mixing bowl, combine seasoned bread crumbs with oregano, salt, pepper, parmesan and pecorino. Place flour in another shallow bowl and beaten eggs in a third bowl. Season beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix to combine.
Working one slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour to coat both sides. Dip eggplant in the egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat eggplant in the breadcrumbs, pressing evenly to coat, then shake off any excess. Set aside on a parchment-lined baking sheet until ready to use.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-high, heat ⅔ cup of the olive oil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, cook half of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt. Repeat with remaining slices, wiping out the pan and adding the remaining ⅔ cup oil as needed. Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix parmesan and pecorino cheeses together in a bowl.
Spread 1 ½ cups of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top sauce with a single layer of the breaded eggplants. Drizzle another cup of tomato sauce evenly across the top of the eggplants. Sprinkle one cup of the parmesan and pecorino cheese mix in an even layer across the top. Place another layer of breaded eggplants on top of the cheese, repeating with another layer of the tomato sauce and cheese mixture on top.
On top of this layer, place the half of the basil leaves and sprinkle with two cups of the shredded mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of eggplant, tomato sauce and parmesan-pecorino mixture. Add a fourth and final layer of the eggplant, tomato sauce, and parmesan-pecorino mixture, then add remaining basil leaves and mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese on top is golden brown. Let rest for 30 minutes before slicing.
Leftovers keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.