eggplant involtini

It makes no sense at all, but for most of this past winter, I craved eggplant parmesan. I tried to tell myself that we were half a year to eggplant season and would I prefer some… cabbage or turnip parmesan instead? (I would not.) I made it a few times. I ordered it in a few others. I finally got it out of my system and then in the past month I’ve seen Reel after TikTok for eggplant involtini and the magical combination of silky eggplant, tomato sauce, and sharp, melty cheese’s hold over me has returned. At least this time my craving has seasonal compliance.

sliced eggplant planks

sliced eggplant planks
ready to grill
grilled eggplant planks

I’ve always struggled a bit with eggplant parmesan as a recipe, however. There’s so much work involved — flour, egg, breadcrumbs, frying — just to bury the whole thing in sauce and cheese, eradicating that hard-won crisp. The quick-to-sog breading becomes additional heaviness in a dish that needs no help with it.

ready to roll

ready to roll
rolled
nestled in

But involtini — which translates as rolls, and is sometimes called eggplant rollatini — is really summerweight eggplant parmesan. It’s absolutely fuss-free and weeknight-friendly. You cut two big eggplants into planks, either grill or roast them until browned. Make an easy mixture of three types of cheese, put a dollop in each, roll it up and cook it in a homemade (my recipe is a cinch) or storebought (no judgment!) sauce. For extra decadence, you could finish it with mozzarella and parm on top, to melt into a cheesy lasagna-like broiled cap, but I left it off and it was exactly the level of decadence I craved. So I made it again the week after, then the week after that. I hope you find it just as repetition-worthy.

baked

baked

75 Days! Until Smitten Kitchen Keepers comes out. It’s 5 years in the making and I cannot wait to share it with you at last. Next week, I’ll announce most of the book tour dates and locations (eee!) and more. We are also working on a preorder bonus that should be really fun. If you’re excited about the book, I hope you’ll consider preordering so it can arrive at your doorstep the day it comes out. Want to learn more? Here’s a little interview I did with Library Journal about the book (which they gave a starred review). Eater just put Smitten Kitchen Keepers on the Top 10 Fall 2022 Cookbooks list, along with 9 others I cannot wait to get my hands on. It’s getting so real!

A Back-To-School Side Project: A tremendous amount of teachers don’t get the funding they need to set their classrooms up for success in the U.S. (and, I’m learning, elsewhere). Most will end up paying out of their own pockets to buy educational materials, which feels all wrong. I asked teachers to send me their wishlists so I could share as many as possible to a wider audience that might be able to help clear them. Help out if you feel you’re able; I’ll keep this list up until the end of September. [SK Teacher Wish Lists] Note: When you check out, make sure you have deselected your usual shipping address and selected instead the name/town you do not recognize (i.e. the teacher’s information) that says “Full address hidden for privacy.”

eggplant involtini

eggplant involtini

Eggplant Involtini

From Alexandra Stafford — who I hope you follow, as you will be so inspired, too — I ended up adding lemon zest to the filling and finishing the dish with lemon juice. I absolutely love it here but if you’re not into lemon, you can skip it. If you don’t want make the sauce, you can use 3 cups prepared sauce instead. I bake the eggplant in 2 cups, and use the last 1 cup for serving.
  • 2 medium eggplants [1 pound each or 2 pounds total)
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1 28-ounce canned whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 4 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • Finely grated zest and juice from half a lemon
  • Fresh basil leaves, for serving
Prepare the eggplant: If roasting your eggplant, heat your oven to 425°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper if roasting the eggplant, or for general ease if grilling. Cut tops off eggplant and cut into generous 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange in one layer on baking sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Flip slices and repeat on the second side.

To roast: Transfer to oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes on the first side, then flip each slice and roast for another 8 to 10 on the second, until browned on each side.

To grill: Grill over robust heat until dark marks appear on each side, about 8 minutes for the first side and 5 minutes for the second.

For both methods: Set eggplant aside to cool. If your oven isn’t already heated to 425, do so now.

While eggplant cools, make the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 11- to 12-inch pot over medium, add minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch or three of red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. Cook for one minute. Add tomatoes (it will splatter, be careful) and stir. Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While it simmers, assemble your eggplant rolls.

When the sauce is done, taste and add more seasoning, as needed. If you’d like it smoother, you can blend to your desired consistency. This yields 3 cups sauce. Before assembling, ladle out 1 cup sauce and set it aside for serving. If your pan you made the sauce in is ovenproof, you’re good to go. If it’s not, transfer all but 1 cup reserved sauce to a 2-quart baking dish.

Assemble the involtini: In a bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, lemon zest, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon at the end of each full-sized slice of cooked eggplant, a little less on small ones, using all of the filling, Roll into a cigar. Place each roll in prepared sauce, seam side down.

Bake: Brush tops of eggplant rolls lightly with olive oil and bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges and browned on top. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and scatter with basil leaves before serving. Serve hot, with reserved sauce and additional grated parmesan cheese, if desired, on the side.

Serve with: Garlic bread, perhaps? Or spaghetti, if you have kids or kids-at-heart.

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