July 24, 2014

Eggplant Rollatini

One of the restaurants I'll miss most in Atlanta is Ippolito's. They have the best garlic rolls ever, and I have yet to find a stromboli anywhere near as good. Although I do realize that it's highly unlikely I'll be able to make either of those dishes at home (or at least as well as they do), there are some things on the menu I think I make pretty well. For example, my eggplant rollatini might not come out in a blazing-hot dish the size of a small child filled with a cow's worth of cheese, but it's pretty darn good.

Eggplant can be finicky. Its irregular shape is fairly annoying for culinary purposes like this one, and it always has the potential to overpower the recipe with bitterness. My mom taught me a trick, though. Sprinkling the slices of eggplant with salt, spreading them on paper towels, and pressing cutting boards down on top (I use books on top for weight if the cutting boards aren't heavy enough) for about half an hour magically removes the bitterness.

Even though you have to spend a while letting your eggplant de-bitter, there's still more prep. You might want to peel the eggplant before slicing to improve the texture of the rollatini, but I find that you sacrifice some of the structural integrity of the dish. In other words, you won't have eggplant skin, but your rolls might not hold as well. You also have to bake the eggplant to soften it or else you won't be able to roll them up. 8 minutes is about enough time to brown the eggplant a little and make it pliable enough to roll but avoid mushy or crispy slices.

Now for the stuffing, which uses one of the best ingredients of all time: cheese. Two types, to be exact. I use mozzarella for the goo factor and ricotta for creaminess and spreadability. I season the mixture with various Italian herbs; fresh is always better but dried is perfectly ok too. A drizzle of olive oil makes the texture even better and helps cut the richness of the cheese.

Assembling the rollatini is surprisingly simple. I take a slice of the baked eggplant, top it with a slice or two of prosciutto (it adds a wonderfully salty flavor and the fat melts into the cheese for even more richness but if you are cooking for vegetarians you can omit it), spread some of the cheese mixture on there (just a spoonful; it doesn't look like much but is actually a lot), and roll it up. After spreading some of your favorite marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to prevent burning and sticking, place the rolls seam side down. You don't need to worry about toothpicks or other ways to hold them together if you roll them tightly, use the right size dish so that they all press together, and leave the seam on the bottom.

Once you roll up all the eggplant, douse it with the leftover sauce and cover it with the extra mozzarella. The sauce keeps the rollatini moist and prevents it from burning, and the mozzarella is just because more cheese is always a good thing. I bake mine for 15 or 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and everything is all hot and bubbly. This is actually a good dish to make ahead for any meal or event because you can do everything but bake it ahead of time and then pop it in the oven whenever you need it. This dish is also perfect because it's the perfect mix of messy comfort food and classy Italian cooking, though I suppose not if you serve it in massive crocks overflowing with even more cheese.

2 Eggplants, Peeled
1 Cup Ricotta
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
¼ Cup Shredded Parmesan
¼ Cup Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
¼ tsp Basil
¼ tsp Oregano
¼ tsp Thyme
¼ tsp Garlic Powder
¼ tsp Onion Powder
¼ lb Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
2 Cups Marinara

Cut the eggplant into about 12 ¼" thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse.

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Spread the eggplant onto baking sheets. Brush with 2T olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes or until just golden and pliable.

Combine the ricotta, ½ cup mozzarella, remaining olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Lower oven to 350ºF. Spread ¼ cup marinara sauce onto the bottom of an 11x7" glass baking dish.

Place a slice or two of prosciutto onto a slice of eggplant. Spread a spoonful of the cheese mixture on top and roll the eggplant tightly. Place seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining eggplant, prosciutto, and cheese mixture. Cover with the remaining marinara and remaining mozzarella and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Serves 4-6

No comments:

Post a Comment