Eggplant Involtini

As a reward for getting into grad school, my fella treated me to a Cook’s Illustrated subscription; be still my heart! I love how much this magazine goes into detail about how to ACTUALLY make food, rather than just throwing a recipe at you without enough guidance. This eggplant involtini recipe was a great first recipe to try!

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  • 2 large eggplants (1 ½ pounds each) (peeling optional)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped coarse (I used San Marzano and didn’t drain it. I don’t like thick tomatoes so I also lightly food processed the tomatoes in their juices.)
  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese (¾ cup) (I used Parmesan because it’s what I had)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

For the eggplant:

BAKE, DON’T FRY

We trade the salting, breading, and frying steps that classic recipes employ for a lighter, no-fuss approach.

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1. SLICE: Lay each peeled eggplant on its side and slice it lengthwise into ½-inch-thick planks (you should have 12 planks).

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2. BAKE: Brush both sides of slices with oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake until tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

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3. STUFF AND ROLL: With widest end facing you, place portion of ricotta mixture on bottom third of slice. Roll into cylinder.

I LOVE THIS.

  1. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into ½-inch-thick planks (you should have 12 planks). Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat.
  2. 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 ½ tablespoons oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Flip eggplant slices and brush with 2 ½ tablespoons oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ 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. [I used less eggplant, about ½ since I was only serving too, so didn’t worry about the two shelves of the oven since I only had one tray of eggplant. I just baked it in the middle position and flipped the eggplant over ½ way through. I cooked it for about 20-30 minutes.]
  3. While eggplant cooks, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch broiler-safe skillet over medium-low heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 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.
  4. Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Combine bread crumbs, ricotta, ½ cup Pecorino, ¼ cup basil, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt in medium bowl.
  5. With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice. Gently roll up each eggplant slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
  6. Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.

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  7. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and serve.

Surprisingly easy . . if a little time intensive. The taste–out of this world. Definitely making again.

 

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