Eggplant Rollatini with Four Cheeses

EggplantThis recipe improves on the traditional eggplant rollatini by calling for roasted, not fried, eggplant. Consequently, it is easier to prepare (no baby-sitting the slices in the pan) and easier on your waistline (roasting requires far less oil than frying).

You’re welcome to stuff the eggplant with cheeses other than the ones I list; just make sure whichever ones you choose melt easily. Likewise, if you don’t feel like making quick tomato sauce, you can use your favorite store-bought brand. The whole dish can be prepared ahead of time—even as much as a day ahead—and then just popped into the oven at the last minute. Serve with an arugula salad and garlic bread.

1 medium eggplant, stem end trimmed off
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup coarsely grated Italian fontina cheese
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 cups Quick Tomato Sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite store-bought tomato sauce

1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh parsley, chives, and basil for garnish

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 8 slices. Brush both sides of the slices with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on 2 large sheet pans lined with parchment. Bake until tender and light golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully turn the slices over. Cool on the baling sheets.

Combine the cheeses in a small bowl and stir with a fork until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the cheese mixture into 8 equal portions. Mound one portion of the mixture on a short side of each eggplant slice. Roll up the eggplant slices to enclose the mixture. Arrange the rolled slices in a shallow casserole or gratin dish seam side down, tightly packed in one layer. Pour on the tomato sauce and bake until the sauce is bubbly ad the cheese is meted, about 30 minutes. Top each portion with some of the fresh herbs and serve hot.

Quick Tomato Sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 small onion, finely chopped, and 2 garlic cloves, minced. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Empty one 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes and their juice into a large bowl and use your hands or a fork to crush. Add the tomatoes and juices to the saucepan. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves and 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes. Makes about 2 cups

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