Monday, September 7, 2015

Eggplant Rollatini

When I offered to make dinner for Alex's family, I was stressed.  What if they're strict carnivores?  What if they wanted ground beef or chicken or something equally as unsavory?  The less I cook with meat, the more it distresses me to think about it.  But luckily, they requested eggplant rollatini.  Excellent.  I could make 2 batches and keep one for our family!  That's exactly what I did.

Eggplant rollatini, for those of you who aren't obsessed with eggplant like I am, is thin slices of eggplant, rolled around a ricotta-based filling and baked in tomato sauce.  What's not the like?!  This filling also has pine nuts, mozzarella, parmesan and basil, so it's basically one cheesy bite of Italy.

Rather than frying the eggplant like in most eggplant parm recipes, it gets grilled.  This was the first time I pulled out the grill attachment for my gas oven, which I was pretty pumped about.  It worked awesome.  So even though there are 3 different cheeses, I tell myself it's fairly healthy.

The recipe comes with its own recipe for sauce.  You could totally toss a jar of sauce in there if you were in a pinch, but let's be honest: when you're taking the time to chiffonade basil and salt-sweat eggplant, you've got the time to make your own sauce too.  Plus this makes plenty of leftover sauce that can be frozen for the next time you make rollatini :)

End result?  Tender rolls of eggplant with creamy, cheesy, ricotta, swimming in a flavorful tomato sauce.  Mmmmmm.


eggplant rollatini
from Food Network 

for sauce: 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 32-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
for rollatini:
3 medium-sized eggplants
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil spray
32 ounces ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
8 tablespoons grated parmesan
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
20 basil leaves, chiffonaded
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


1) Make the tomato sauce first.  In a large casserole to, heat oil over medium high heat  Add onion and garlic, and sauce until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Sauce until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick.  Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning.  If sauce tastes acidic, add unsalted butter 1 tablespoon at a time to round out flavors.  Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.  You will need 2 cups for this recipe; allow the rest to cool completely and pour into freezer plastic bags.  It will keep for up to 6 months.

2) Preheat the grill pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place a rack over a large baking sheet.  Cut the 2 ends off the eggplant.  Sprinkle with seas alt to help remove excess moisture and any bitterness from the eggplants.  Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Rinse off the salt from the eggplants and pat dry with a towel.  Spray hot grill pan liberally with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove slices from the grill pan and allow to cool.

3) In a large bowl, beat eggs until lightly scrambled.  Mix the ricotta in with the egg.  Add mozzarella, 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and toasted pine nuts, and gently combine.  Fold in basil just to combine.  Do not overmix.

4) Place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on 1 end of the eggplant and roll up tightly.  Place the eggplant rollatini into a greased (with olive oil) 13 by 9-inch baking dish, seam-side down.  Continue with remaining eggplant.  Evenly distribute the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the remaining 5 tablespoons of parmesan and bake for 15 minutes.  When cooked, drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil.

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