Eggplant Rollatini (Video!)

Crisp fried eggplant, creamy herbed cheese, and savory tomato sauce form a dream combination. These could be a side dish, or just as easily be the main course. Adapted from a recipe prepared for the Phantom Gourmet.

Prep time: 45 minutes including 30 minutes unattended while the eggplant slices purge
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: about 8 rollatini, depending on the size of your eggplant

1 large eggplant
1 teaspoon salt
½ to 1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1 egg
¼ cup milk
½ to 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Olive or canola oil for frying
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup + 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, separated
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan, separated
½ cup chopped basil or parsley
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2-3 cups tomato sauce

Rinse and dry eggplant. Slice off the stem end, and cut into slices about ¼-inch thick. Reserve the outermost slices for another use (they will not be big enough to roll around the filling. Arrange slices in a flat layer on the bottom of a large baking dish. When one layer is finished, sprinkle that layer with salt, and repeat with the next layer until you all useable slices are salted. Put this baking dish aside for half an hour while you mow part of the lawn. After half an hour, carefully tip the eggplant dish and pour off the water

Preheat the oven to 350F, and set out a large loaf pan or baking dish. Set a skillet on the stove, and pour in enough canola oil to cover the bottom, and turn heat on to medium. Pour the flour onto a large plate or shallow dish. Whisk the egg and milk in a large bowl. Pour the bread crumbs onto a large plate or shallow dish. Arrange near the skillet. Take a slice of eggplant, turn it in the flour, then in the egg, and then in the bread crumbs. Carefully place this slice in the hot skillet, and repeat with other slices to fill the skillet. Cook each slice for 4-5 minutes per side or until bread crumbs are nicely browned and crisp. Remove to paper towels and repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the chopped basil or parsley, and the salt. On a working surface, set out a slice of cooked eggplant. Place about 3-4 TB of the cheese-herb mixture on one end of the slice, and roll the slice from that end to encircle the filling. Place this slice, seam end down, in a baking dish or large loaf pan. Repeat with the other eggplant slices to fill the tray. Spoon pasta sauce around the edges of the rollatini, sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until cheese on top is melted and dish is bubbly.

Chianti, or another Sangiovese-based wine, will go well with this tomato-intensive dish.

Tip: Use eggplants that are at least 8” long and about 3” in diameter. Short, wide eggplants are more difficult to roll.

Served up by Tod Dimmick

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