Eggplant Rollatini is an Italian-American classic, right up there with veal parmigiana and baked ziti. These are not classic Italian dishes by any stretch of the imagination. You're far more likely to find this preparation of thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with ricotta at a pizza joint than a Tuscan trattoria. The word "rollatini" doesn't even exist in the Italian language!
Authentically Italian or not, eggplant rollatini is a fantastically satisfying vegetarian main. This version from Carol Gelles' 100 Best Vegetarian Recipes uses a quick tomato sauce spike with a touch of heavy cream for extra richness. Gelles offers a few different methods for cooking the eggplant slices before they are stuffed; you can pan fry them, broil them, or grill them. While making eggplant rollatini at home I've found that dipping the eggplant slices in a light egg wash, lightly breading them, and pan frying them makes for the best flavor/texture combination.
- Yield:4 to 6
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- One 14 1/2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
- Oil for frying (optional method)
- 2 to 3 medium eggplants, unpeeled (each about 7 inches long)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. To prepare the sauce, in a 2-quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 2 cloves minced garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, with liquid, breaking them up with the back of a spoon. Stir in the tomato paste and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the sauce in a blender. (A blender is better than a food processor for this recipe, but if you only have a processor, that will do-just get the sauce as smooth as possible.) Cover and blend until smooth. Return to pot and stir in the cream; set aside.
Meanwhile, for the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, mozzarella, parsley, Parmesan, 1 clove minced garlic, and the pepper; set aside.
Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 12 slices (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick). Discard the end slices that are mostly skin. Cook the eggplant slices by frying them in oil (which they soak up like a sponge) or broiling them. The cooking method doesn't matter; it's just important that the eggplant be completely cooked, because it doesn't soften more in the baking.
Place 3 tablespoons of the filling on the thick end of each of the eggplant slices; roll to completely encase the filling.
Pour one cup of the sauce into the bottom of an 11 x 7 x 1 1/2-inch baking dish (or a 9-inch square baking dish). Place the rolls, seam down, into the dish. Top with the remaining sauce. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes at 375°F, or until cheese is heated through and slightly runny.
Variation: Broil the eggplant, omit the cream from the sauce (it tastes good even without the cream), and use part skim ricotta and mozzarella.