A twist on Eggplant Parmigiana, with all the taste but much less guilt!
There are two types of people. Those who love eggplant, and those who don’t. No middle ground. Well, Ted is ambivalent, but as one of 12 children, he learned never to turn good food away. I, of course, am an eggplant lover! I make a very fine Eggplant Parmigiana (Kerrie and Wendy back me up here!) but it has been relegated as a “sometimes” food, due to the amount of oil that the slices of eggplant suck up before turning golden brown. Enter Eggplant Rollatini (cue the glow of light and angelic music) A Facebook post just popped up before Christmas; I tried it, loved it, and promptly lost it. (Insert swear word. A bad one) Do you know how hard it is to find something you WANT to see on Facebook?? Luckily for me I had a rough idea of where I was headed, and thought it would make an excellent post before all the information left my head for all time. So apologies to the original recipe poster – I cannot acknowledge you, and I know that I have deviated from your recipe with the addition of one ingredient, but trust me, this Eggplant Rollatini is divine!
Start with your eggplant. Years ago, a little old Italian man named Joe would visit our neighbourhood every week selling fruit and veg from the back of his truck. In the days before internet shopping (or even internet) and very small children, he was a blessing, meaning that I could stretch the time between supermarket shops. And he tempted me to try different things, explained how to choose good produce, and sold me ripe fruit that started my obsession with homemade jam and pickles. So Joe’s advice about eggplant – pick one that is smooth and shiny, heavy for its size, and will spring back slightly when you push your thumb gently into it. Anything dull or wrinkly will be old and bitter – yucky! Pick out two beauties:
Then slice them lengthways into about 1.5 cm slices, lay them on trays lined with baking paper and generously sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes. At this stage, preheat your oven to 180°C.
With a paper towel, blot off the moisture that will have gathered on the surface of the eggplant, removing the excess salt as well. Sprinkle with black pepper, then pop into the oven for 20 minutes. That’s right; no oil! How good is that?? End result:
While the eggplant is cooking, make the filling. Take a cup of fresh ricotta (and by fresh, I mean a wedge from the deli – about 250g – that stuff in the tub is too wet and not very tasty) 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup finely chopped basil, and an egg. Now here is the special ingredient – lemon zest! About one teaspoon which adds a freshness to the filling and the whole dish, lifting it to a whole new level. Your filling will look like this:
Well, perhaps not as yellow – Norah’s eggs are amazing! I can’t wait to experiment with other flavours here as well – imagine some wilted spinach chopped into this – divine! Once the eggplant is cool, take a large spoon of the ricotta mixture and spread it over, leaving room at one end to roll:
Spray a baking dish with some oil, and pop a 1/2 cup of passata in the bottom. Roll up your eggplant, pressing gently, and place on sauce seam side down. Repeat with remaining eggplant and filling:
Top with a cup of passata, then sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese:
If you are making ahead of time, this would be the stage to cover and refrigerate. Just be sure to bring the Eggplant Rollatini back to room temperature before baking. For those who are hungry and eating sooner rather than later, pop into your preheated 180°C oven and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with a green salad and some bread to mop up all that lovely sauce! Any leftovers are possibly even more delicious reheated the next day when the lemon has had a chance to permeate through the whole rollatini.
- 2 eggplants, cut lengthways into 1.5 cm strips (you need 8)
- 1 cup of fresh ricotta cheese
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus ¼ cup extra for topping
- ⅓ cup basil, finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups of tomato passata
- ¼ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- Place eggplant on trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, use a paper towels to remove moisture and slat from the eggplant. Sprinkle with pepper and place in a preheated 180°C oven for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
- For the filling, mix ricotta, parmesan, basil, zest and egg in a bowl and season to taste.
- Spread ½ cup of passata in the base of your baking dish.
- Spread a large tablespoon of mixture over cooled eggplant and roll up, placing on passata, seam side down. Repeat with remaining eggplant and mixture. Cover with remaining passata and sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in moderate oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling