Tis the season of eggplant.
My Eggplant Rollatini is a great main dish for vegetarians or if you just feel like going meatless for a night.
I prefer this over Eggplant Parm - not that there's anything wrong with a little Eggplant Parm now and again. But in this recipe, because the veg is grilled not fried. And there is no need for dipping and dabbling in eggs and breadcrumbs.
Nonetheless, preparing the rollatini is a bit time consuming. This isn't a 30-minute meal. So crack open some wine and put on some tunes. Enjoy the process.
You of course could take a shortcut and use jarred marinara, but The Jersey Girl just so happened to have a batch of homemade sauce chilling out in the freezer. This is a great time of year to rock out some marinara with the abundance of fresh basil everywhere. And jarred sauces don't exist in my house. Once a snob, always a snob. Here's my marinara recipe, in case you are inspired to rock some out.
And onto the main event: Eggplant.
Makes 8 to 10 rolls
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inchwide. Each eggplant should yield 4 to 5 slices
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
3 Tbsp.grated parmigiano
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 cups marinara
Salt and pepper to taste
Lay eggplant slices on two baking sheets. Sprinkle each with a pinch of salt on both sides. Let rest for 15 minutes. This process will extract extra water.
Once the 15 minutes is up, rinse each piece under water and dry on kitchen towels.
Line up eggplant on baking sheets, and brush each side with olive oil.
Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Working in batches, grill eggplant for about five minutes per side. Eggplant should have gorgeous grill marks and should be pliable, as we see here:
Remove from pan and let cool on baking sheets. Repeat until all are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a bowl combine ricotta cheese and egg gently with a whisk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in mozzarella, parmigiano and basil. Set aside.
One the eggplant slices are cooled, sprinkle each with salt and fresh pepper. Lightly oil a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish.
Evenly divide ricotta filling among the 8 to 10 slices of eggplant starting on the narrow end of each slice. The filling should not go up about 1/4 of the length of each slice.
Gently wrap each eggplant into a roll over the filling and line up each roll in the prepared baking dish. So orderly!
Top each roll with a generous spoonful of marinara sauce. Now we're talking.
Bake for 15 minutes uncovered in a preheated 375 degree oven. And enjoy, all you wild and crazy vegetarians!