Eggplant Involtini

cooked involtini

On the fussiness scale, this recipe is up there. I hate to start on such a negative note, especially when these little ricotta-stuffed rolls turned out to be so stinking good, but I’ve become really lazy in the kitchen. When I see recipes that call for salting and draining and blotting dry, or for deep frying, or for assembling little parcels — as adorable as they may be — I tend to shy away.

But I’ve had this recipe bookmarked since last Christmas when I first opened Tartine Bread. And with eggplant season peaking and with my homemade tomato sauce and ricotta cheese obsession persisting, the timing seemed right. And right it was. Oh boy. Somehow the flavors of lemon and thyme in the ricotta cheese pervade the eggplant shells, all of which meld together with the fresh tomato and cream sauce base, a perfect combination in this early fall dish.

Seriously, please don’t let the opening of this post deter you from this recipe. Try to remember that I’m lazy, you’re not. I have to admit, too, that the dish came together much faster than I had anticipated. And while I begrudgingly trudged through each step of the recipe, I ultimately found myself enjoying the stuffing and the rolling and the assembling of the eggplant packages. I know you will, too.

Oh, one last thought. Are you thinking about baking this weekend? Perhaps with plums? If so, I recommend you take a look at these posts, one from The Garden of Eden and the other from House to Haus. I made the zwetschgentorte today actually — delicious! — and I can’t stop thinking about Darcy’s Plum crumble. Hoping to get around to it this weekend as well. Yum yum yum yum yum.

cooked involtini

lemon & thyme

fried eggplant

assembled involtini in dishes

involtini, rolled

Involtini

Adapted from Tartine Bread
Serves 2

Notes:
• I made a half recipe.
• The book offers a recipe for tomato sauce, which I’m sure is delicious, but I have been hooked on this one since discovering it.
• I used these fabulous mini gratin dishes, but feel free to use a standard sized baking dish.

Involtini

1 eggplant
kosher salt
olive oil for frying (I used canola oil)
tomato sauce, this is the one I adore, but feel free to use your favorite store-bought
heavy cream
freshly grated Asiago cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano (I used parm)

Stuffing

bread crumbs, about 1/2 cup, made from about 3 slices day-old bread*
1 cup whole milk ricotta, homemade is easy and delicious
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1. Trim the stem end of each eggplant. Using a mandoline, cut the eggplant lenthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should have about 12 slices. Sprinkle the eggplant on both sides with kosher salt, layer them in a colander, and let stand for 1 hour. (I was impatient and only let them drain for about a half hour… worked out just fine.) Press the moisture from the eggplant and blot them dry with paper towels. Pour olive (or canola) oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep, heavy saucepan or large skillet (I used a cast iron pan) and heat to 360ºF on a deep-frying thermometer. (I did not use a thermometer — just watched the oil and tested when I thought it was ready.) Place 3 to 4 eggplant slices in the hot oil and cook until the slices take on some color, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the slices to a colander (or paper-towel lined plate) to drain. Repeat with remaining slices.

2. Meanwhile, make the stuffing. In a bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, ricotta, lemon zest, juice, thyme and salt.

3. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Spoon tomato sauce into a medium-sized baking dish (or individual gratin dishes) till bottom of dish is covered in a thin layer. Place a spoonful of filling at one end of each of the eggplant slices. Roll the slice around the filling and place it seam-side down in the dish on top of the tomato sauce. Spoon a tablespoon of cream (or less) over each roll to moisten. Bake until the edges of sauce around the sides of the dish are dark and the rolls are nicely caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with the Asiago (or parm) before serving.

* After burning a batch of homemade bread crumbs, I decided to go with Panko. If you want to make homemade, do something like this:

Homemade Bread Crumbs

3 slices day-old bread*, each 1-inch thick, torn into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 T. olive oil
kosher salt
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence** (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the herbes if using. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Midway through baking, redistribute the croutons if they are coloring unevenly. Once cooled, place croutons in a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin or your hands, crumble them more finely.

involtini, one down

103 Comments

  1. I pinned this recipe months ago and have been dreaming about it ever since. This week I remembered to get all of the ingredients from the store…and I ate the entire thing by myself between last night’s dinner and today’s lunch (my husband hates eggplant). It was SO worth the effort. I added in some salty cheese instead of the salt and crushed garlic to the cheese filling and it was truly truly divine. Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply
  2. This is one of my all time favourite dishes – Melanzane – not exactly the same but the incredients are. Def for not frying the brinjal or salting to get rid of excess water. Grilling as is with a little olive oil, loads of garlic and fresh sweet basil a MUST. parmesan cheese and of course to top mozarella. Delish

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  3. I made this tonight. I added too much salt to the eggplant. Otherwise, it was great. If I make this again I think I will go with the blanching method.
    Thanks,
    Laurie

    Reply
    • Glad to hear this, Laurie. I know, the salting of the eggplant is kind of a pain. Many of the commenters have offered other suggestions for preparing the eggplant, which I have greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  4. This was so good! Little too much lemon for my taste (I think my lemon was super juicy), but it was still delicious especially on a cold “spring” evening (it is snowing again today). I roasted the eggplant on a little olive oil in the oven for 5 minutes per side and it was nice and pliable, so thank you to everyone for that tip!
    Also, thank you for your cinnamon roll recipe (Molly W one), I make it for holidays and they get gobbled up every time! Delish!

    Reply
    • Kathleen — wonderful to hear this, and glad to hear that roasting the eggplant worked well for you — frying is a pain. And I’m so happy you like the Molly W cinnamon rolls — those are an entertaining staple for us as well!

      Reply
  5. Just finished eating this for dinner and it was a huge hit! Today was my day off so I salted & drained the eggplant in the morning, assembled it in the afternoon, then threw it in the oven while I put together a salad. It was much easier to put together than I anticipated and my kids and hubby were licking their plates clean. One alteration I made was that I discovered I was really low on olive oil, so I simply pan-fried the eggplant instead of deep-frying it. I like all the different takes on it – zucchini, goat cheese, oil-and-broil – and I run the risk of being disowned by my family if I don’t make it again soon! Thanks for the great recipe!

    Reply
    • Hannah — haha, I love it. I know, it’s nice to know that the eggplant adapts well to different preparations. I can’t wait to try this with zucchini this summer, though it’s hard to not make it with eggplant every time — people always go crazy for it. Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  6. Liked this recipes, but it was a bit too lemony. I would eliminate the lemon juice and add some more Italian spices to the ricotta stuffing

    Reply
    • Ashleigh – ive actually made it with zucchini, and I loved it. You can either lightly sauté the zucchini strips or lightly roast them till they at pliable. Then proceed with the recipe as usual. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  7. I served this tonight to my 2yr old son and hubby who doesn’t like zucchini at all! (similar texture) … well my son at it if i cut it small enough on his plate that it hid in the delicious tomato/cheese sauce…and my husband ate 3 rolls and said “it’s good” and that I could make it again…i’m shocked and pleased. My variation was to just pan fry the salted slices as well, then roll a filling of bread crumbs, cottage cheese, garlic, oregano…very good!

    Reply
  8. I’ve had this pinned for a while now (and I keep admiring the photo on my recipe board)… it is finally eggplant season! I just finished reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked where he mentioned Tartine Bread. Didn’t realize there would be more recipes than just sour dough bread. I’ll have to get the book!

    Reply
    • I love Tartine Bread! But, and this is kind of ridiculous, but I have never made the actual bread recipe. It seems so complicated. One day I’ll get to it. But the book is a beauty for all of the other recipes as well as the beautiful photos.

      Reply
  9. Just made this for valentines day and I thought it was actually very easy! And we both thought it was SO DELICIOUS!
    I would have laid off a little bit on the lemon – it was a tad overpowering. But otherwise an amazing dish. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. This made for a very enjoyable vegetarian weekday dinner — at once comforting and light.

    As much as fried aubergine is delicious, I couldn’t bear the fuss (and unhealthiness) that this step would bring to the dish, so I grilled it instead and thought that the slightly charred aubergine added a nice flavour dimension to the dish.

    Also, I didn’t make a tomato sauce especially for this: I just poured passata straight into the dish that I was going to serve from (to minimise washing up!) and added a little minced garlic, some salt, pepper and olive oil. This is something I picked up from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook where she makes a quick ratatouille by layering up thin slices of vegetables on this super-lazy tomato sauce and I have found it to work just fine for these kinds of dishes.

    Finally, the ricotta filling for the aubergine was a great one and came together in minutes. I liked it with the full amount of lemon by the way!

    Thanks for another great recipe Alexandra — I’m yet to be let down by any! In fact, many of them have gone into the ‘must cook again’ category; but, unfortunately (or fortunately — however way you want to look at it), every single time that I visit your site, I get so tempted by all of the other delicious looking things here that there haven’t been any repeat performances yet!

    Reply
    • Wonderful to hear all of this, Alex. Love the idea of grilling the eggplant for both of the reasons you mention: ease and health. I find that step so annoying/fussy, and will definitely try grilling soon. And I love the idea of using the passata — how have I never heard of that term?! Question: did you make the passata or did you buy it? I would love to have something like this in the pantry. That quick ratatouille sounds divine. Must try that this summer. And thank you for your kind kind words. It means so much to me. Really.

      Reply
      • Hmm, not sure — perhaps it’s because we’re in different countries. :) It’s an uncooked tomato purée that’s been sieved so that it has no skin or seeds. I imagine you could easily make it, but I must admit I find it a useful convenience item to buy and store in the cupboard.

        As for the ratatouille recipe, it’s not as fabulous as a properly made ratatouille; however, since that takes the best part of two hours, I find Smitten Kitchen’s quick version great for weekday meals (well, it’s quick as long as you have a mandolin!). Even better is her ratatouille tart: get a square of puff pastry, score a 1cm border and part-bake. Then spread with tomato purée and top with alternating rows of very thinly sliced aubergine, courgette (or zucchini, as you say in the US!), red onion and red pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano (dried or fresh) and season, then return it to the oven. If you have it, it’s very nice with feta crumbled on top once it’s out of the oven.

        Reply
        • Ok, cool, thanks so much for the info! We have a Pomi brand over hear that I really like that I think is the same thing you are talking about. That ratatouille tart sounds amazing! And so pretty, too. Love that kind of thing this time of year. Thanks again for your nice comments!

          Reply
  11. Your photos are stunning, and are how I found this recipe. I recently made Eggplant Involtini from my Cooks Illustrated magazine, and it was delicious. The difference between their recipe and yours would fit right in with being somewhat lazy…you bake the eggplant, rather than frying, and you don’t have to pre-salt it. Also, you make your sauce, then cook the eggplant in the same pan as the sauce, which makes for fewer dishes to wash. :) What a delicious dish…I’ll be making it again.

    Reply
    • Yum! Eggplant involtini is about my favorite food to eat this time of year. And I need to try the baking method for preparing the eggplant, because standing at the stove is just too much like hard work. Thanks for writing in!

      Reply

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