Recipe: Involtini di Melanzane (Eggplant Rolls)

This recipe is taken from my iPad app, Product of Italy.

Involtini di melanzane was one of my favourite dishes growing up in southern Italy, we had it at every family occasion. So when I get back from my culinary tour to my home region of Puglia I always include it on the menu of next my supper club – makes be feel like I'm still back home. And it’s especially nice to make this time of year when eggplants are in season here in Ontario.

You can make this dish up to two hours in advance of serving, or fry the eggplant the day before if that’s more convenient. The dish is also very versatile: you can have it hot or room temperature, and you can make it as rolls or lay it flat in the pan like a classic parmigiana.

Ingredients

For the eggplant rolls:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 120 ml or half cup of fresh mozzarella
  • 120 ml grated Romano cheese  
  • 15 basil leaves
  • 3 eggs
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Fine sea salt - QB
  • Flour for dusting

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 bottle of Italian passata
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 handful of  basil leaves ¼ cup olive oil Fine seasalt to taste

Instructions

Pre-prep (10 minutes)

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant in 1/4” slices, lengthwise.
  2. Place eggplant in strainer and make them “sweat” by sprinkling generously with sea salt and letting them sit for 30 mins minimum. Be sure that your strainer is in a bowl to catch the liquid as it is released.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves.
  4. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  5. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half

Make the tomato sauce: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes passive cooking time (40 minutes)

  1. In a medium-sized sauce pot add ¼ cup of olive oil
  2. Lightly pan fry the whole garlic and onion together, cook until lightly brown (but not burnt!)
  3. Add cherry tomatoes and add little salt to help release their juice and flavor, and let it cook for 3/5 minutes
  4. Add the tomato passata. Rinse the empty bottle with 1 cup of water and add to the sauce. The sauce should be a little watery so feel free to add more water if it looks dense – it will thicken during the baking process. 
  5. Add basil, mixing it into the sauce so it’s completely submerged in liquid
  6. Add a good pinch of fine sea salt and give it a quick stir
  7. Allow the sauce to come to a boil with the lid slightly ajar. Once boiling has begun, stir gently and reduce heat to low simmer. It should bubble lightly for half hour or so.
  8. Allow the sauce to come to a boil with the lid slightly ajar. Once boiling has begun, stir gently and reduce heat to low simmer. It should bubble lightly. (Passive simmering time: 30 minutes)

Fry the eggplant: 20 minutes

  1. Prepare a plate or dish lined with paper towel ready to receive the hot fried eggplant
  2. Beat eggs in a medium sized bowl
  3. Place flour in a shallow dish and coat each piece of eggplant lightly with flour
  4. Place 2 inches of frying oil in a frying pan and turn on to a high heat (don’t be scared!) so that you will be ready to fry once coating eggplant has been completed. If the oil begins to smoke it is too high; if it sizzles when you sprinkle a little flour into it, it’s just the right temperature.
  5. Next, dip the coated eggplant slices into the beaten egg and you are ready to fry
  6. Once oil is ready, begin to fry by gently placing several pieces of your coated eggplant into the frying pan. Do not overlap your pieces – give each its space. Fry until golden brown, turning only once. Normally you will need a couple of minutes for each side. If in doubt, taste to see if it’s cooked to your liking.  

Baking: 10 minutes plus 20 mins, passive cooking time

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Lay the cooled fried eggplant slices on a flat work surface
  3. Dice the mozzarella and place evenly across the middle of each slice
  4. Sprinkle the grated Romano cheese evenly across the middle of each slice
  5. Tear the remaining pieces of basil into little bits and place across the middle of each slice
  6. Prepare a shallow baking dish with a scoop or 2 of tomato sauce enough to cover the bottom
  7. Roll the slices into “involtini” (rolls) and place in your baking dish next to each other
  8. Cover the rolls with the remaining tomato sauce, don’t drown them, but generously cover and if quantity allows, save some sauce aside if needed.
  9. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until lightly roasted on top. NOTE: the size of eggplant slices will vary so don’t worry if some don’t roll perfectly. Just fold them as best you can – you won’t taste the difference when you eat them!