Here’s a lighter version of Eggplant Involtini that focuses on the eggplant. Baking instead of frying allows you to skip the salting and draining step, since the eggplant’s excess moisture evaporates in the oven, and it means that the eggplant’s flavor and meaty texture are not obscured by oil and breading. This was sooo good, we can’t wait to make it again!
Swapping the usual ricotta-heavy filling for one that’s boosted with a generous dose of Pecorino Romano means we can use less filling without sacrificing flavor. Lastly, make a simple but complementary tomato sauce in a skillet, add the eggplant bundles to it, and finish it under the broiler, which decreases the number of dishes required—always a plus in our book!
Of course we put our own spin on the dish, first by utilizing the pieces of eggplant cut away before planking them. What a waste it would be to discard all of that—about 3 cups worth! So we cubed those leftover pieces into about a 3/8″ dice and sautéed them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until softened before adding the tomatoes to the same skillet.
Now here comes the real twist. We added very thin slices of prosciutto on top of the eggplant slices before spooning on the cheese filling. Of course this step makes it no longer vegetarian, but that extra ingredient added even more depth of flavor. And we served ours with a side of gemelli pasta, which negates the low-carb factor, if you’re not concerned with that aspect.
- 2 large eggplants (1 1/2 pounds each), peeled
- 9 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ tsp. dried oregano
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed coarsely in their juices
- 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
- 8 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ oz. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 4 oz. very thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half crosswise (optional)
- Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks (you should have 12-15 planks). Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat.
- Cut up those leftover rounded pieces into a 3/8″ dice and sauté them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your large skillet until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Adjust 1 oven rack to lower-middle position and second rack 8 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with vegetable oil spray. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Brush 1 side of eggplant slices with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Flip eggplant slices and brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Bake until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using thin spatula, flip each slice over. Heat broiler.
- While eggplant planks cook, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the diced eggplant in same broiler-safe skillet over medium-low heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in hand crushed tomatoes and their juice. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.
- Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Combine bread crumbs, ricotta, 1/2 cup Pecorino, 1/4 cup basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl.
- With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, place a half slice of prosciutto, if using, on the wide end of each plank. Next, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice. Gently roll up each eggplant slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
- Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and serve.
Adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook for America’s Test Kitchen