Eggplant Involtini is the epitome of Italian comfort food. These eggplant rolls are great for entertaining as they can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving. This is such an advantage as it means that you can spend time with your guests and not miss the fun. This makes for a relaxed host and consequently relaxed guests.
Why we love this recipe:
Involtini loosely translates as small bundles of food. That is food which has an outer layer wrapped around a filling.
Veal is frequently used as the outer layer but chicken, fish or vegetables are also popular. Here, I have used slices of shallow fried eggplant to wrap around a flavour-filled, creamy ricotta filling.
These Eggplant Involtini are simple to prepare and it is a dish of pure comfort. After filling the eggplant slices, the small bundles are placed into a basic tomato sauce, topped with grated parmesan cheese and baked to rich, flavoursome, deliciousness.
This is ideal for family meals or entertaining as it can be prepared in advance. In addition, it will suit many people with specific dietary preferences as it is vegetarian and gluten-free.
Ingredients in this recipe:
Please see the recipe card further along in the post for exact quantities of ingredients and the full method.
Eggplant – As they are the star of the Eggplant Involtini, I have some advice on how to select them further down the post.
Rice flour – I use rice flour from an Asian grocery store. Some of the supermarket rice flour is very gritty.
Olive oil – my preference is to use extra virgin olive oil for the extra flavour it provides. In addition, it is at the heart of the much-praised Mediterranean Diet being an excellent source of healthy fat and health-benefiting antioxidants. Use the best olive oil that you have.
Ricotta – for the best flavour, use full-fat ricotta, available loose from the deli section of the supermarket or in tubs from the refrigerated cheese section.
Egg – a large, free range egg helps to bind the ingredients together.
Dried currants – they are the tiny, black, dried fruit of a small, sweet, seedless grape and are not the same as the bush-grown berry which is also called a currant.
Red-wine vinegar – unsurprisingly, red wine vinegar begins its life as red wine which has been allowed to ferment. You could use white wine vinegar if you prefer.
Parmesan – use a good quality parmesan, freshly grated. My preference is Grana Padano, it has great flavour and is less expensive than Parmigiano Reggiano.
Fresh mozzarella – you will find balls of bocconcini at the deli section of the supermarket or sold in tubs. They range in size from small, cherry-sized bocconcini through medium and large sizes.
Garlic – use fresh garlic. It has better flavour than bottled garlic and there are no unnecessary additives.
Tomato passata – this is 100% strained tomato. You may also see it as tomato puree.
Sugar – a small amount of sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
Fresh basil leaves – add traditional Italian flavour to the tomato sauce.
Pine nuts – have a soft texture and a buttery flavour when raw. They can be lightly toasted in a dry frying pan to add a little crunch.
Do not be daunted by the long list of ingredients. There are several steps in the recipe but none of them is difficult.
Step by Step Instructions:
- Slice the eggplant lengthways then soak the slices in a salt and water solution for 30 minutes;
- Remove the eggplant slices from the brine, pat them dry, coat in rice flour and shallow fry until they are tender and creamy.
- As they cook, place them onto several layers of kitchen towel. This will absorb the excess oil.
- Whilst the eggplant is soaking I prepare the filling.
- I make a mixture with ricotta, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, parsley and dried currants.
- Make your tomato sauce. In a frying pan, add finely chopped garlic to olive oil. Heat it gently until the garlic is fragrant and pale golden. Add the tomato passata, sugar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and basil leaves, torn into small pieces. Stir well, bring to a simmer and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ricotta filling and a slice of fresh mozzarella to the narrow end of the eggplant slices, roll them up and place them in a baking dish with some tomato sauce.
- After finishing the rolls, top them with more tomato sauce. After a sprinkle of parmesan, I bake the Involtini until they are meltingly tender.
Tips for Success and FAQs:
How should I choose eggplant? Any tips for cooking eggplant?
Look for fruit with smooth, shiny, unblemished skin. They should feel heavy for their size and feel firm to the touch. This is a sign that the flesh is in good condition. They bruise easily so handle them carefully.
For easier rolling of the Involtini, it is best to find eggplants which do not have a very narrow top and very wide bottom. The globe eggplant is ideal. However, this is not always possible so just add your filling to the narrow end and roll them up.
One of the most important tips is to ensure that the eggplant is not undercooked. To achieve flesh which is creamy, smooth and meltingly tender the eggplant must be thoroughly cooked. This also ensures that it is receptive to the other flavours which are in the dish.
Instead of discarding the first and last slices of the eggplants, do as I do. Fry them and enjoy with a sprinkle of sea salt. These are the cook’s perks. They are delicious!
The eggplant really does behave like a sponge. As mentioned above, to avoid this I make sure that the slices of eggplant are properly hydrated by the brine. And then, it is important that the oil be hot when you add the eggplant to the pan. If the oil is not sufficiently hot, the eggplant will absorb oil.
Also, it is important to put the cooked slices of eggplant onto paper towels to drain. They will release excess oil.
It was previously necessary to salt eggplant slices to remove bitter juices. That tendency to bitterness has mostly been bred out of the eggplant so in general I no longer follow this practice.
However, that procedure did help prevent the eggplant from soaking up a bucket load of oil. So, whilst it’s not essential to salt the eggplant, I soak the slices in a bowl of water with a couple of tablespoons of salt for about 30 minutes. I find that after bathing in brine, the fried eggplant absorbs less oil.
I use rice flour to keep the dish gluten-free. You could use gluten-free all-purpose flour. However, if you don’t need to avoid gluten, you could use regular wheat all-purpose flour.
I generally buy a tub of ricotta from the supermarket and gently turn it onto some paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
However, you can also buy a wedge of ricotta from the deli section at the supermarket. It has a drier consistency and you will not need to drain it.
When it comes to serving:
Eggplant Involtini is a dish that I find myself making over and over again. It is wonderfully versatile, being suitable to serve to carnivores or vegetarians alike.
As well, it is gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. Serve it as a starter, a side dish to poultry or meat or as a meat-free meal accompanied by crusty bread and a salad. The Involtini are so delicious and satisfying that I doubt even the most enthusiastic meat-eater will complain.
More delicious recipes for you to try:
Here are some more easy dinner ideas:
- Easy Roast Chicken
- Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells
- Mediterranean Beef Stew
- Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Shells
- Mushroom San Choy Bow
- Creamy Tuna Pasta
- Sous Vide Salmon
- Tuna and Potato Patties
- Greek Style Chicken and Salsa
Please let me know if you make this classic, Italian comfort food, Eggplant Involtini. I look forward to hearing what you think!
This post was originally published in April 2019. It has been updated with new photos and more information. The recipe remains the same.
For the Eggplant:
- 2 large eggplants See Note 1
- ¼ cup (40 g) rice flour See Note 2
- ½ cup (120 ml) olive oil – extra virgin
For the Ricotta Filling:
- 1 cup (250 g) fresh ricotta See Note 3
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup dried currants See Note 4
- 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar See Note 5
- 20 g grated parmesan
- 100 g fresh mozzarella – cut into 1 cm thick sticks See Note 6
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil – extra virgin See Note 5
- 2 small garlic cloves – finely chopped
- 500 ml tomato passata See Note 7
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8 large fresh basil leaves – torn into small pieces
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
Topping prior to baking:
- 20 g grated parmesan
To finish the dish prior to serving:
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts – tossed lightly in a dry frying pan until golden (optional) See Note 8
- fresh basil leaves
For accuracy, we recommend weighing your ingredients. This will produce the best results.
For the Eggplant:
- Cut off the stem end of the eggplant.Stand the eggplant upright on the cut end.
- Cut the eggplant lengthways into 1 cm (½ inch) thick slices setting aside the first and last slice that has the skin – see Note 9
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt to a large bowl of water. Add the eggplant slices to the brine.
- Top with an upturned plate and a weight on top to keep the eggplant submerged.Soak for a half hour. Prepare the filling whilst the eggplant is soaking as per the instructions below.
- Soak the currants in the red wine vinegar for 5 minutes. Drain the currants. See Note 10.
- Drain the eggplant slices and pat dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper.
- Lightly coat the eggplant slices in the flour.
- Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large frying pan. The oil should be sufficiently hot but not smoking.Cook the eggplant in the frying pan 1-2 minutes each side until tender and golden, adding more oil as necessary.
- Drain the eggplant slices on a plate covered with kitchen paper. Layer with more kitchen paper as each layer is covered with eggplant.
For the Ricotta Filling:
- To make the filling, mix ricotta with the egg and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the drained currants and grated parmesan to the ricotta mixture. Mix well.
For the Tomato Sauce:
- Heat the olive oil and add the finely chopped garlic. Heat gently until the garlic is fragrant and pale golden, ensuring that it does not burn.
- Add the tomato passata, sugar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and basil leaves, torn into small pieces.Stir well, bring to a simmer and simmer for 2-3 minutes.Remove from the heat.
- Preheat your oven to 180 Degrees C (350 F).
- Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling onto the narrow end of an eggplant slice.
- Top with a stick of mozzarella before rolling tightly.
- Add ½ cup of the tomato sauce to the baking dish.
- Place the eggplant rolls on the sauce with the join side down so they don’t unroll. Keep them tightly packed.
- Top with the remaining tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
- Cover the dish with foil, bake 30 minutes then uncover & bake another 10 minutes.To serve, add a few of the remaining basil leaves and toasted pine nuts (optional).
- Look for eggplant with smooth, shiny, unblemished skin. They should feel heavy for their size and feel firm to the touch. For easier rolling of the Involtini, it is best to find eggplants which do not have a very narrow top and very wide bottom. The globe eggplant is ideal. However, this is not always possible so just add your filling to the narrow end and roll them up.
- I have used rice flour to keep the dish gluten-free. You could also use gluten-free plain/all-purpose flour. If you don’t need to make this gluten-free you can use regular plain/all-purpose flour.
- I generally buy a tub of ricotta from the supermarket and gently turn it onto some paper towel to absorb excess moisture. If you buy a wedge of ricotta from the deli section at the supermarket it has a drier consistency and you will not need to drain it.
- Dried currants are the tiny, black, dried fruit of a small, sweet, seedless grape and are not the same as the bush-grown berry which is also called a currant. They may not be as readily available as raisins or sultanas. If you are unable to find them, you can omit the currants/vinegar. When I drain the currants I keep the vinegar to use in a salad dressing. It has a slight sweetness which has infused from the currants.
- The Australian tablespoon is 20 ml or 4 teaspoons. In many other countries, the tablespoon is 15 ml or 3 teaspoons. You may need to adjust your measurements accordingly.
- Fresh mozzarella is available from the deli section or cheese counter of the supermarket.
- Tomato Passata is an uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins. It generally comes in tall glass jars. It is sometimes known as tomato puree.
- I have added some toasted pine nuts for textural contrast; they add a nice crunch. If you would like to add some, place the pine nuts in a dry (oil-free) frying pan. Over moderate heat, stir or toss the pine nuts until they are golden. Immediately remove them to a small dish so that they don’t continue cooking.
- Instead of discarding the first and last slices of the eggplants, do as I do. Fry them and enjoy with a sprinkle of sea salt. These are the cook’s perks. They are delicious.
- Instead of discarding the vinegar, I set it aside to use in a tossed, green salad.
- Please note, the nutritional information is based on the dish being enjoyed as a main course for four. It will serve six people as a side dish.
The nutritional information is an estimate only, and is derived from online calculators. For accurate results, we recommend calculating the nutritional information based on the ingredients and brands you use.
Delicious. Authentic. A great meatless meal option. This one’s a keeper!
Hi Marianne, thank you so much for your lovely comments on our Eggplant Involtini. I am delighted that you enjoyed them and appreciate that you took the time to let me know. 🙂
So delicious. My favourite way to prepare eggplant now!
Hi Sophie, I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed our Eggplant Involtini. Thank you so much for letting me know. 🙂
WOW!! This was so much better than the one we get from our Italian restaurant! The sauce was super flavorful and everyone was asking for seconds. Your tips for preparing the eggplant was so helpful. It came out even better than what I was expecting!
I am so happy to hear that the Eggplant Involtini was such a success.
It is always good when a recipe comes out even better than what you were expecting 🙂
I absolutely love this recipe. There are a few steps to do, but it is all made very easy with all the detailed instructions. Thank you so much for such a delicious recipe!
Thank you so much. I am really happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe!
Thanks for such a lovely recipe. Love your detailing and the assembling of the dish ahead of time. This is a delicious and Happy Meal option for my family.Cheesy , Saucy and yum.
I am thrilled you enjoyed it – thank you so much for taking the time to let me know!
This was so good.
I have always been a fan of eggplant, but my husband only recently came to start eating it. He still has been a little unsure of it, but he LOVED this dish, and has requested we make it again soon!
Hello Amanda, thank you so much for the terrific feedback regarding our Eggplant Involtini. I am thrilled that you and your husband have enjoyed them. 🙂
Absolutely delicious. We made it for Friday night dinner with the family, and it was a real hit. The only trouble? Everyone loved it so much that there were no leftovers haha! I can imagine it would be delicious the following day too. Thanks for such a flavoursome and successful recipe!
I am so glad this was so popular. Shame about the leftovers though 😉
This was so good! Love the addition of the currants. Delicious recipe! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
I am so glad you enjoyed it, Angela!
Eggplant anything is a winner in my book but I love how well balanced this recipe is!
Thank you, Sarah!
I am always looking for new ways to cook with eggplant, and this is delicious.
Hi Dannii, thank you so much for letting me know that you enjoy the Eggplant Involtini. It is pure, delicious, comfort food! 🙂