Eggplants are abundant and gorgeous right now, so I thought what better time to highlight one of my favorite recipes, eggplant rollatini! Although a bit time consuming to prepare, the results are well worth the extra prep time. Eggplant rollatini is a delicious, belly-warming Italian comfort dish, sure to please any crowd!
Be forewarned, however: this recipe is not meant for dieters or skinny eaters! Eggplant rollatini is comprised of thinly sliced and fried eggplant slices that are stuffed and rolled with mozzarella and ricotta, and then baked in a thick, rich marinara. It’s a rare and decadent treat in our household, and I won’t lie… I always fry the eggplant slices, rather than opting for a healthier choice such as grilling or baking. It gives the dish that certain unctuousness and flavor that you can only get with frying.
Rollatini is also really adaptable. Feel free to add ingredients such as: proscuitto slices, spinach, pine nuts, or anything else that you have in your pantry! Although I have occasionally added proscuitto when I have some on hand, I usually just prefer to keep the rollatini as simple and close to the recipe as possible.
The first step that I always do when prepping for rollatini is to salt and drain the eggplant slices. This step allows for the eggplant to lose a bit of it’s bitterness and extra water content, which also gives the eggplant a little more pliability for rolling. (again I repeat, this is a very prep heavy recipe!) Most people drain their eggplant in a colander. My colander never is able to hold enough slices at one time so here is the method I prefer (I usually allow for 20-30 minutes for this step)
1. Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil on your countertop (could stack two)
2. Cover the foil with at least 2 sheets of paper towels for draining.
3. Lay out the eggplant slices on the paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt
4. As the eggplant gives off its water, lay another paper towel on the top of the eggplant to absorb the extra water
5. Flip the eggplant slices over, and repeat steps above on the other side
6. After about 30 minutes, rinse and dry the eggplant (or otherwise use a damp cloth to wipe all the extra salt off the slices) and take the entire mess, foil and all, collect it into a ball and toss in the garbage!
After the eggplant slices have been drained and dried off, they are ready to be fried and stuffed! Note: we do have an outdoor burner on our gas grill that I prefer to fry on, since frying inside really smells the house up for a day or two.
For any young kids that refuse to try eggplant, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. It’s an easy way to “hide” additional vegetables in your kids food, and get their palates used to a new ingredient. My kids have been eating it for years and only recently realized that they were made with eggplant!
I hope you try this delicious cheesy Italian dish! Enjoy
- 3 cups packaged whole-milk ricotta
- 2 medium eggplant, each about 4 inches wide and about pound
- kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil, or as needed
- ½ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
- 3 eggs
- all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
- 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼ x ¼-inch sticks
- Approximately 3 cups marinara sauce, either homemade or store bought
- 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into ribbons
- Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1-inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices and sprinkle generously with the coarse salt. (see instructions above) Let drain for approximately ½ hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly and pat dry.
- Pour ½ cup each of the olive and vegetable oils into a medium skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, whisk 2 of the eggs and 1 teaspoon salt together in a wide, shallow bowl. Spread the flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl or over a sheet of wax paper. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly. Let excess egg drip back into the pan.
- When a corner of a coated eggplant slice gives off a lively sizzle when dipped into the oil, it is ready for frying. Add as many of the coated eggplant slices as fit without touching and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes. Remove the eggplant to a baking pan lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. Adjust the heat as the eggplant cooks to prevent the egg coating cooking too fast or over browning. Add oil to the pan as necessary during cooking to keep the level more or less the same. Allow the oil to heat before adding more eggplant slices.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Stir the ricotta, ⅔ cup of the grated cheese and the parsley together in a mixing bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Beat the remaining egg in a separate small bowl and stir it into the ricotta mixture.
- Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 10x 15-inch baking dish. Sprinkle lightly with 2 tablespoons of the remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Lay one of the fried eggplant slices in front of you with the short ends towards you. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling over the narrow end of the slice and top it with a mozzarella stick. Roll into a compact roll and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and filling, placing the rolls side by side.
- Ladle the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls to coat them evenly. Sprinkle the remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top of the eggplant and tear the basil leaves over the cheese.
- Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the edges of the casserole are bubbling and the filling is heated through, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
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