Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stuffed Eggplant Involtini

Eggplant Involtini with Sinfully Homemade Tomato Marinara

As a food writer, I have a few confessions to make (cringe).
I have been very sinful lately.
First holy sin being that I let my blog go and I let life get in the way.
And when I say life, I mean work.  Sometimes life = work and in my case lately, 
work = life.  The price I pay for being a Fashion Designer.  
So my blog got neglected for the very first time.  And I sincerely apologize whole-heartedly to all my loyal Foodie fans who have been severely impacted by my hiatus and are in desperate need of food inspiration. 
I owe you guys one BIG!
 And the second holy sin being that I just created one of the most incredible, sinful dishes I have ever mastered and I am quite proud of my accomplishment.
Therefore, I must share!
Tonight I made my first Italian Involtini.  These are heavenly little roll-ups that go perfectly with a tomato based sauce.
I looked up quite a few Involtini recipes and noticed that the traditional ones were quite complex and very fussy, but I didn't shy away.  Instead I created my own modified version that is more simple, involves less steps and is just equally delicious.
As many of you know, I live for the experience of delicious fillings just oozing out of savory pastas, dumplings and anything that is 'stuffable' literally. 
And this Involtini I created is just the perfect combination of flavors and textures:
 Eggplant with lemon-thyme ricotta filling stuffed inside, rolled-up into shells and baked in a very savory (and surprisingly quite sinful, yikes!) fresh Tomato Marinara that will have you hooked.   Consider this the perfect dish before the new year resolution diet kicks in.

I started by broiling the Eggplant (1/4" thin lengthwise slices) lightly in oil until beginning to brown.  

I then get the sauce going since it needs to cook at a simmer for 45 minutes or so.  Typically I would pair with my very own Tomato Sauce recipe which is my go-to, light and easy Marinara with basil and garlic.  But this time I kicked it up 1000 notches when I adapted this amazingly sinful and simple Tomato Sauce with Butter & Onion created by Marcella Hazan on Food52 blog.

Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes, Butter!! & Onion

Marcella Hazan uses ripe heirloom tomatoes straight off the vine and simmers them together with butter (5 tablespoons! I used 3..), and one whole onion, halved (for perfect flavoring).

The easiest and best way to prepare the tomatoes for the sauce is by par-boiling them and then blanching.  Par-boiling is done by bringing a large pot of water to a boil, adding the whole tomatoes (with skin on), shutting off the heat and leaving them to sit for a few minutes until the skins are starting to peel.
Then you drain, blanch in cold water for a minute or two and then remove all the skins. Fast and easy way of prepping them for the sauce!

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter & Onion

 And while the sinful sauce is simmering....
Now onto the ricotta filling! 

I use whole-milk ricotta, lemon zest and lemon juice, chopped Thyme and Panko bread crumbs. 

**In an upcoming post I plan to feature the easiest technique ever 
to making homemade Ricotta 
in only 25 minutes flat and flawless everytime!

Place a heaping spoonful of the filling at each end (wider side) of Eggplant and roll up like you would a manicotti, creating little shells.

In a baking dish or cast-iron pan, place a small layer of sauce on the bottom.
Place the rolled eggplant Involtini in the dish, seam-side down.  
Add additional tomato sauce around the Involtini and drizzle the tops of the eggplant rolls with  a small amount of heavy cream.  Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling and browning along the edges.

**Side note: For my dish, I used smaller sized Italian Eggplants which are half the size of regular Eggplant (*attempted* portion control on my part!).  However, you may use larger size eggplants for a more hearty dish and better presentation.

Sinful Eggplant Ricotta Involtini & Homemade Tomato Sauce
Recipe serves 2.


-1 large eggplant or 2 small Italian eggplants
-kosher salt
-grapeseed, canola or olive oil for broiling
-Tomato Sauce, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this recipe (it is sinful however but well worth it!! I used about 3 tablespoons of butter, recipe called for 5! Reason why it tasted so good I'm assuming)... or you can use your own or a favorite store-bought sauce as well.
-Heavy cream
-Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
-Panko bread crumbs, about 1/2 cup
-1 cup whole milk ricotta
-grated zest of 1 lemon
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1/4 tsp. kosher salt    

Preparation & Cooking instructions: 
1. Trim the stem end of each eggplant.  Thinly slice lengthwise (about 1/4 inch thick slices) the eggplant into about 10-12 slices (or 5-7 slices if using Italian eggplant).  Blot the eggplant slices dry with paper towels, pressing out any moisture or liquid.
2.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil, coat eggplant slices with small amount of oil and place on baking sheet, broiling for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and partially cooked.
3. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce and then the stuffing.
4.  For the stuffing, mix in a bowl the ricotta, bread crumbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme and salt.
5. Remove eggplants from oven when done.  Reduce heat to 425 degrees.
6. Once sauce is cooked, spoon a thin layer of sauce covering the bottom of a baking dish.
6. Spoon a heaping spoonful of filling at one end of each eggplant slice (place at wider end).  Roll the slice around the filing and place it  seam-side down into the baking dish.
Add the remaining sauce to around the Stuffed eggplants but do not cover completely.  
7. Drizzle each top side of eggplant with a small amount of heavy cream to moisten.
8. Bake until the edges of the sauce around the sides of the dish are darkened and the Involtini is nicely caramelized, about 25-30 minutes.  
9. Garnish with Parmigiano before serving.
Enjoy! xoxo,

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