Red Sauce How Italian Food Became American






Eggplant Rollatini: How To Make It

By on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022 at 9:00 am | 212 views

baked eggplant rollatini

Eggplant rollatini is one of the those classic Italian American red sauce dishes that persists today.

Rollatini has a lot in common with American style eggplant parmigiana, but instead of layered eggplant, each slice is rolled tightly together and then baked. In Italy, this dish is more commonly known as eggplant involtini, although American versions tend to be richer and heavier.

The technique is also similar to Italian Americna braciole, where a piece of flattened meat is stuffed and rolled before simmering in sauce. Braciole as a term a holdover from an immigrant population speaking in dialect and more commonly the phrase involtini is used in Italy.

Cooking with eggplant had always intimidated me. Eggplant can often taste bitter and the skin is thick and slow to cook down soft. I’ve improved my technique over the years, grown less afraid of eggplant soaking up olive oil, and while writing Red Sauce, became a lot more interested in cooking rolled food.

I prefer the shape of Italian eggplants, which tend to be less bulbous than the standard eggplant. I usually get one more eggplant than I think I will need so I can skip the tinies pieces cut from the the edge.

I slice thin strips from end to end. The first and last slice aren’t great for rolling, but fry them up anyway and enjoy a nice chef’s treat. For eggplant parmigiana I prefer slicing medallions. In both instances, the thickness should be the same — as thin as you can get it without slicing off of a finger ripping the eggplant.

The first piece of advice is to double soak these eggplant slices. The first soak should enjoy at least ten minutes in a bowl of water. Drain it, and then refill it. The water will town brown from the seeds and other bitter flavors.

For eggplant parmigiana, I prefer a full flour-egg-breadcrumb batter before frying. This gives the eggplant a bit more heft to it, like a chicken or veal tender. But for eggplant rollatini, the extra batter just gets in the the way of the rolling. I simply toss the eggplant in flour before frying.

Once the eggplant is coated in flour, I fry it in olive oil. Eggplant will soak up oil like a sponge, but this is why you should use good olive oil and not generic vegetable oil.

eggplant frying in oil

The flour will brown slightly on the edge. Some will fall off and turn the oil brown. That’s all okay. The flour will form a very light crust, but that’s all that is needed to soak up the sauce.

Let the paper towels take in some of that extra oil. Add some sauce to the bottom of the cooking pot. I prefer ceramic to glass because the glassware will be more likely to burn the sauce.

eggplant ready to be baked

I spoon a bit of ricotta into each piece of eggplant and begin to roll. Some people will add raw egg to the cheese but I find this dries out the eggplant too much, and a tightly packed tray of eggplant will keep the cheese in anyway.

The little packets are tucked neatly together.

eggplant rollatini preparing to be baked

Once the pan is filled, top with tomato sauce and cheese.

eggplant rollatini neatly placed in the dish waiting to be baked

glamor shot of eggplant rollatini waiting to be topped with sauce

You don’t actually need to top it with mozzarella. Grated parmigiana will bring a lot of flavor to the dish. Of course, its very common to add mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella will make everything a bit wetter — and there will be less crispy crust. Low moisture mozzarella will still prevent some of that crust from forming, but is more common in the united states. In my experience, low moisture cheese is more likely to get a golden brown color because of fresh cheese steams off a bit more.

baked eggplant rollatini

Ingredients

Eggplant
Ricotta
Flour
Olive oil
Simple tomato sauce
Parmigiana cheese
Mozzarella cheese (optional)

Instruction

Slice the eggplant into sheets.
Dredge in flour.
Fry in olive oil
Dollop cheese on the eggplant.
Roll eggplant.
Place seam side down in pan.
Squeeze the packets together.
Top with sauce.
Sprinkle cheese on top
Bake at 375 F
Finish under the broiler.