My word, there's an awful lot of chocolate going on here lately ... and I'm not even PMS, I swear it. Clearly, I need to step away from the coco bean and present something else before someone calls the authorities. On the menu today: eggplant rollatini.
Ever since 2006, I can't even think about eggplant rollatini without hearing the voice of Carmella Soprano in my head. Season six, episode five: "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request" ... to be exact. Carmella and Tony are at the wedding of Allegra Sacrimoni, and at one point, Carmella stands up and screams out: "Ton! The rollatine!" I about fell off the couch for laughing and immediately gave props to writer Terence Winter for the colloquial truncation of the word "rollatini". Where I'm from, and where Carmella was from, that word is pronounced "rollatine" ... and I'm not even from Jersey.
I can understand why she was so excited about it too - eggplant rollatini is a treat to be sure. The tender toothsome eggplant, the soft creamy cheese, a nice piquant tomato sauce ...what's not to like? A more luscious and inviting dish I cannot imagine! Now, I'm not going to lie, this one takes some time to prepare ... but it is well worth your effort.
Right off the bat, I'll offer a few short-cuts. If you wish, feel free to use jarred tomato sauce. I used some leftover Five Minute Marinara Sauce. Whichever you choose, you'll need 2 to 3 cups, depending on how saucy you like your rollatine. In this recipe, I've used fresh baby spinach, but feel free to use a package of frozen chopped spinach, if you're so inclined. Doing so will certainly save you some time - though, in my opinion, the flavor will suffer. Your choice. Just be sure to defrost the spinach and drain very well before use.
Bottom line - this is not rocket science and the finished dish is insanely good. So good, in fact, that you might just need to stand up and shout for joy a la Mrs. Soprano. Really. Its fabulous! I've reduced the fat and calories by baking the eggplant and using lower fat ricotta, so its healthy to boot.
Carmella, this one's for you.
Diva's Baked Eggplant Rollatine:
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 cup (or more) whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 ounce package of fresh baby spinach
- one 15 ounce container of part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup of 1% large curd cottage cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- pinch of Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- generous grating of fresh nutmeg
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 to 3 cups Marinara sauce
- some shredded low-fat Mozzarella cheese for topping
- additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Wash and trim the eggplants, removing both the stem and bottom ends. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 12 even 1/4 inch slices. (Discard the first and last cutting of each as it will contain mostly peel.)
3. Coat a large cookie sheet with a thin layer of olive oil and reserve. On a large, flat plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mix well. Dredge the sliced eggplant, one slice at a time, in bread crumbs, pressing firmly on each side to coat well. Place the coated eggplant slices onto prepared cookie sheet in a single layer and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes; turn slices over and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until lightly browned and tender. Removed cooked eggplant to a wire baking rack to cool. Repeat process until all 12 slices have been coated and baked.
4. While the eggplant bakes, prepare the spinach. Wash and drain spinach, then saute briefly in a non-stick pan over medium high heat until just wilted, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cooked spinach from pan and place in a wire strainer or sieve to drain - pressing firmly with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much water from the spinach as possible. Once drained, cool slightly then chop into small pieces and reserve.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, pinch of salt, black pepper, dried basil, granulated garlic and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir well to blend. Add the egg and stir well to combine. Add the reserved chopped spinach and stir well to combine.
6. Pour 1/2 of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish and reserve. To assemble the rolls: place once slice of baked eggplant on a plate and spread with approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta mixture. (Use your judgement on the amount needed here.) Spread in an even layer and roll from the widest end to the narrow end to form the roll. Place the stuffed rolls, seam side down, into the reserved baking dish and continue until all the rolls have been formed. (Pictured above.)
7. Top the rolls with remaining sauce, to taste, and sprinkle some shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the rolls. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil from the top of dish and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling hot. Serve immediately!
As written, this recipe will yield 12 magnificent eggplant rollatini. I hope you'll try it!
You'll note that I haven't salted and drained the eggplant. For me, that step seems unnecessary. I don't find eggplant to be bitter and it adds one more step to an already lengthy process. Your mileage may vary, of course, so do as you see fit. If you choose to salt the slices, be sure to rinse well and pat dry before proceeding with the breading.