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Eggplant Involtini

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.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 719kcal
Author Alexandra

Ingredients

For the Eggplant:

  • 2 large eggplants See Note 1
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) rice flour See Note 2
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil - extra virgin

For the Ricotta Filling:

  • 1 cup (250 g) fresh ricotta See Note 3
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dried currants See Note 4
  • 2 tbsp 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 1/2 tbsp olive oil - extra virgin See Note 5
  • 2 small garlic cloves - finely chopped
  • 500 ml tomato passata See Note 7
  • 1 tsp 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 tbsp pine nuts - tossed lightly in a dry frying pan until golden (optional) See Note 8
  • fresh basil leaves

Instructions

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 (1/2 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. 

To Assemble:

  • 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).

Video

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Fresh mozzarella is available from the deli section or cheese counter of the supermarket.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Instead of discarding the vinegar, I set it aside to use in a tossed, green salad.
  11. 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. 

Nutrition

Calories: 719kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 1041mg | Potassium: 1149mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 1270IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 421mg | Iron: 3mg