Pre heat oven to 400 degrees
Begin preparing eggplant by peeling, slicing into 1/4 thick discs, then submerge in a large bowl filled with water and a generous amount of salt. Allow eggplant discs to sit in salted water 10 min. Make sure to turn discs over once or twice to ensure they all get soaked since they like to float to the top!
After the eggplant is done soaking, remove the eggplants, drain, and pat dry with cloth or paper towels. Discard the water from the bowl.
While the eggplants are drying, prepare your dipping and breading station. In a large bowl combine plant based milk and corn starch. In a separate bowl, pour in seasoned breadcrumbs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for the eggplant's third and final landing zone
Dip the eggplant slices in the milk and cornstarch bowl, then cover completely with breadcrumbs. Lay slices on the lined baking sheet, then lightly spray with cooking oil. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn over, spray the other side, and bake another 10. Eggplant are ready when edges are crisp and golden. After you are finished baking off the eggplant drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees. (You can also skip the cooking oil and bake a few extra minutes if you are cooking oil free, but I think it helps crisp them up nicely and I don't mind a light coating)
Optional alternative method: for the most intense flavor, eggplant DOES taste amazing fried in oil (especially olive oil). That being said, it is time consuming, uses up a lot of oil, and adds many empty calories to the dish. If you do fry your eggplant, be sure to drain it extremely well after on paper towels or paper shopping bags to get as much oil out as possible. You want them crisp and golden, not soggy or mushy! I have made it this way for many years and have decided that since we are going to be baking the eggplant in layers of sauce and cheese, there will be plenty more flavor added to this dish, so I don't think it's necessary.
Take a 9x13 baking dish and spoon some marinara sauce on the bottom so the eggplant doesn't stick. Take your cooked eggplant discs and make a layer to cover the bottom. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of vegan ricotta lightly over the eggplant, add another few spoonfuls of marinara sauce and use the back of the spoon to spread and distribute the cheese and sauce evenly. Repeat until the eggplants are used up! The number of layers will vary based on how much eggplant you have, but I usually end up with 3-4 layers. Some people also add mozzarella and/or parmesan between the layers, and I have done this many times myself, but honestly I think the main flavor comes from the ricotta and sauce here, so lately I have been saving my mozzarella and parmesan for the end.
The top layer will have a different coating. First, spoon on some sauce , then sprinkle a nice even coating of mozzarella cheese. If you are using a DIY home made vegan mozzarella recipe, this will likely instead means spooning/drizzling it on and spreading as best as you can. To save time I used Violife mozzarella shreds instead.
After your eggplant is assembled, return to the oven (now on 350 degrees) and bake for approximately 30 minutes. The dish is ready when heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve alone or with your favorite pasta. Top with extra marinara sauce and vegan parmesan cheese. Enjoy!