So ever since I made the amazing dish that is Miso-Grilled Eggplant, I’ve been in a state of semi-alert when I rove around the fruit and vegetable aisle and the Asian grocers whilst on my weekly shopping routine. It was a few weeks ago while passing through FruitEzy in Chatswood Westfield that I became terribly excited at seeing “BABY EGGPLANTS” in the specials corner, pre-packaged in bundles of five or six, price ranging from four to six dollars.
I grabbed one in a burst of excitement. Other than another round of the miso eggplant, I had been wanting to make a pan of Eggplant Involtini for some time – little rolls of grilled eggplant strips wrapped around a mixture of cream cheese, ricotta and fresh herbs, before being bathed in a simple tomato sauce and topped with a handful of cheese. For such a decadent-sounding dish, it actually tastes surprisingly light and is a good dinner choice for meat-free Monday…and is gluten-free! But I served it with a fig, Serrano ham and white cheese salad, so there goes the meat-free Monday part – still gluten-free though 😉
The fresh herbs that are used in this involtini are basil, mint, and parsley – I had basil and mint but my parsley has not fared well lately so I had to buy a bunch. I used a few strands of thyme and a few more torn leaves of basil for my tomato sauce; there is something incredibly satisfying about using herbs from your own windowsill garden – because they just keep giving!
I had returned home from a whole ten-hour day of law lectures which I needed to attend to renew my Practicing Certificate for 2016; and while my mind was fairly fried and I had already had dinner, I decided to prep this the night before I was going to serve it – meaning all I needed to do was sprinkle on some cheese and slide it into the oven while preparing my salad – leaving me lots of time to entertain my dinner guest that evening.
To serve two, you will need:
- Two baby eggplant or one large one, sliced thinly;
- Salt, for seasoning and drying;
- Olive oil, for brushing and cooking;
- 100g ricotta cheese;
- 100g mascarpone cheese or cream cheese;
- 2 tablespoons each of fresh mint, parsley and basil, finely chopped; (plus extra for sauce and garnish – see below)
- 1 small brown onion, diced;
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped;
- 1 tin diced tomatoes;
- 2 heaped teaspoons tomato paste;
- handful basil leaves, torn;
- 1/2 cup grated pizza/mozzarella cheese;
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese;
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (for garnish).
Slice the aubergines and lay out before sprinkling lightly with salt, leave for five to ten minutes. Heat a grill pan over medium heat while you’re at it. Use a paper towel to blot the eggplant slices and brush off the excess salt, use a pastry brush to lightly brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. Grill on both sides until golden brown lines appear. Set to one side and allow to cool.
Make your tomato sauce. In a medium frying pan/saucepan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion, frying until translucent. Add the chopped garlic, tinned tomatoes, thyme leaves, tomato paste, stir and bring to a simmer. Add half of the torn basil leaves, simmer for another five minutes then remove from heat.
In a small-medium baking/casserole dish, spoon out half of the tomato sauce mixture over the base. If you’re eating this straight after, rather than cooking this the night before like I was, preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
The cheese mixture is ridiculously easy – combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and herbs! Lay out a slice of aubergine and at one end put a spoonful of the cheese mixture before rolling it up gently. Place onto the base tomato sauce layer and repeat with the remaining aubergine slices and cheese mixture, packing in the little rolls tightly.
Scatter over the remaining basil. Over the top of the aubergine rolls, spoon over the remainder of the tomato sauce before scattering over the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden and the sauce is happily bubbling away beneath.
Scatter over the remainder of the chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately with a salad on the side. Some toasted, soft bread is wonderful for mopping up that glorious sauce! 🙂