Eggplant Involtini (+ Basic Tomato Sauce)

Summary: This is Mario Batali's recipe. He says, "it would be better to overcook them by 5 minutes than to undercook them by one." In addition to my two small augmentations -adding lemon and mint- I think toasted pine-nuts would be a great touch. Simple, delicious!

Yield: serves 4

For the sauce

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into ¼" dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ medium carrot, finely shredded
  • two 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • salt

For the involtini:

  • 2¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise into ⅓"-thick slices
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta (I make my own; see All the Rest)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I use a tad more)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • a handful fresh mint, chopped finely
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups basic tomato sauce (Mario's follows)
  • 1/4 cup whole parsley leaves

Make the sauce:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, with their juice, and bring to a boil, stirring often and mashing the tomatoes some. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt.

Make the involtini:

In a 10″ or 12″ saute pan, heat 2 cups of the extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 370° Fahrenheit. Add the eggplant slices 2-4 at a time, and fry, turning once, until soft and light golden brown, about 2 minutes. A splatter screen is helpful here! Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, scallions, nutmeg, lemon zest and mint and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the eggplant slices out on a work surface (or use the pan you’re going to bake them in) and place 1 tablespoon of ricotta filling at the base of each slice. Roll the eggplant up around the filling to form a neat roll and set seam side down on the work surface (or in pan).

If you haven’t already, put the eggplant roll-ups into a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour the sauce over them.

Bake until the cheese starts to melt out of the rolls, 15-25 minutes. Drizzle with remaining quarter-cup extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve.