RECIPE: Eggplant Involtini (Eggplant Cheese Roll Ups)




Eggplant Involtini (Eggplant Cheese Roll Ups)

Ingredients 

eggplants
2 large eggplants or 4 small/medium ones, peeled and ends cut off 
3 eggs, gently beaten 
1 cup of flour 
1 tablespoon of dried parsley 
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil 
2/3 of a cup or more of canola oil for frying the eggplants 
a lot of salt and paper towels for drying out the eggplant

filling 
1 cup of whole milk ricotta 
3/4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cups of grated Parmesan cheese OR Pecorino/Romano cheese for a 'zingier' flavor profile
salt and pepper to taste 
1 egg 
1 tablespoon of lemon juice 
1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley, well chopped 
1/4 cup of dried breadcrumbs 
2 tablespoon of dried basil (double it if you want to use fresh, just chop it well)

sauce 
3 tablespoons of olive oil 
1/2 cup of finely chopped yellow onion 
a pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicier) 
3 garlic cloves, well minced 
2 cups of chopped, peeled and seeded tomatoes from the garden or you can use a 28 oz. can of peeled Italian tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
fresh ground pepper to taste 
3 tablespoons of finely chopped basil 
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley

topping 
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs 
1/4  cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of dried parsley, mix well

Directions:


Prep the eggplants. Cut your eggplants lengthwise into 1/2" planks. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and sprinkle salt on top. Lay eggplants onto the salted paper towel, lining them up evenly. Sprinkle salt on top of the eggplant and cover with a paper towel. Repeat that whole thing by continuing to add eggplants onto the salted paper towel and then covering with a paper towel and adding a new layer until all the eggplants are salted and covered in paper towels. Let's sit for 1 1/2 hours. The paper towels will become very damp because you're drying them out and breaking down the cell walls so that they absorb a little bit of the oil during frying and become creamy during cooking.

In the meantime make the sauce. In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, the red pepper flakes and the garlic and cook over medium heat until sautéed and beginning to brown. Then add the chopped/ peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then bring to low and simmer. At that point add your fresh herbs, stir and let cook for about 30 minutes to 45 depending on what tomatoes you used. You really want to get a lot of the water out and get the sauce thickened slightly. This might take longer if you use tomatoes from your garden v.s the can. Canned tomatoes use less water. Once the sauce is ready you can either store it in the fridge if you make it way ahead of time or make it in the early part of the day and then use it towards the evening prep. You can even freeze the sauce and have it ready on hand for just about anything.


Once your eggplant have been sitting for 1 1/2 hours, runs them very quickly under cold water and pat dry. Season your flour with parsley, garlic powder and basil. In another bowl whisk the 3 eggs. Dredge the eggplant planks in the flour and then coat with the egg and fry in hot oil in a frying pan until golden on both sides. Drain on a paper towel. Fry all the eggplants, and set them aside.

Preheat oven to 375˚.

Make the cheese filling.
In another bowl mix ricotta with the shredded mozzarella cheese, Parmesan/Pecorino Romano, salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Mix well, then add the egg and basil. Mix well and then finally add the breadcrumbs.



In a Pyrex pan (about a 13 x 9) ladle the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Take an eggplant with the thicker part toward you and spoon 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling on the bottom, thick part of the eggplant. Take your end and roll it away from you and then place, seam side down, in the Pyrex pan. Continue with all the eggplant, lining them up next to each other in the pan.


Spoon a little the extra sauce on top and cover with tinfoil. Bake at 375˚ for about 30 minutes. While it’s baking, mix together the breadcrumb topping (1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, the cheese and the parsley). Once the eggplant have been baking for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake for 10 minutes more to crisp up the top. What I like to do is if I don’t have enough of a golden brown top on the breadcrumbs, I put the pan under the broiler for another five minutes. Serve hot with a nice green salad.

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