Baking the eggplant first makes Eggplant Rollatini easy to work with. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)
Even for someone like me who loves to cook, midweek meals can be a real task sometimes, especially when you’ve been driving home in a snowstorm at 10 miles per hour and arriving two hours later. But I like to pride myself on preparing a nice, home-cooked meal as often as I can, and last week I wasn’t going to let a few flakes and treacherous, icy conditions deter me from my mission.
My recent successes with making homemade ricotta (see my Simply the Best column from Jan. 30) has inspired me to find ways to use it in dishes rather than smearing a big slab of it over a baguette slice (which I do with complete abandon) or crumbling it atop salads, pasta and pizza. But I wanted to showcase this creamy cheese with eggplant and decided to make eggplant rollatini, which I knew wouldn’t be too time consuming. Baking the eggplant slices beforehand makes them pliable and easy to fill/roll and gave me the chance to pour a glass of wine while they were baking. I cheated here and used a jarred pasta sauce, but there are so many good brands available, it was a delicious time saver.
Before placing the eggplant into the baking dish, pour some of the tomato sauce on the bottom as this will prevent the eggplant from sticking. I like the vegetarian version, but next time I will try topping each eggplant slice with a slice of prosciutto followed by the ricotta mixture. Of course you can use store-made ricotta here but look for some that is freshly made rather than in the processed tubs. You won’t believe the difference. This dish was worth the drive.
Recipe from Kate Lawson
2 medium eggplants 2 cups fresh ricotta (See The Detroit News’ Eats & Drinks Simply the Best column from Jan. 30 on how to make ricotta; you can substitute store-bought ricotta.) ½chopped fresh basil 1 cup finely grated Parmesan 2 ½ cups primavera pasta sauce ¾ cup coarsely grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray two large baking trays with olive oil; spray to lightly grease.
Cut the eggplants into ½-inch thick slices lengthwise. Arrange the eggplant, in a single layer, on the prepared trays. Lightly spray with olive oil spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
Meanwhile, place the ricotta, basil and three-quarters of the Parmesan in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Taste and season with pepper.
Place 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on 1 eggplant slice.
Roll up firmly to enclose filling.
Place the roll, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining ricotta mixture and eggplant.
Pour the tomato sauce evenly over the rolls. Sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.
Bake for 10 minutes or until the mozzarella melts. Serves 4.
Per serving (using homemade ricotta): 584 calories; 27 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 42 percent calories from fat); 53 g carbohydrates; 94 mg cholesterol; 1,774 mg sodium; 35 g protein; 8 g fiber.