Eggplant is prepared in a variety of ways in southern Italy, especially in Sicily, where it turns up in pasta sauces, layered with tomatoes and cheese, and in this simple antipasto of involtini (stuffed rolls), which can also be served as a meatless main course in larger portions. For an especially pretty presentation, you can garnish each serving with a few seared tomatoes on the vine.
- 3 eggplant, each about 1 lb. (500 g)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 lb. (125 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 4 Tbs. (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) dried bread crumbs
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- Olive oil for brushing
- 1 jar (25.4 oz./721 g) Bona Furtuna Marinara Pasta Sauce or 3 cups (24 oz./750 g) homemade tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup (1/2 oz./154 g) lightly packed fresh basil leaves
Trim the eggplant, then cut crosswise on the diagonal (so the slices are as wide as possible) into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Layer the slices in a colander set over a plate, sprinkling each layer with salt, and let stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the ricotta, mozzarella, 2 Tbs. of the Parmesan, the parsley, bread crumbs, garlic and lemon zest. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then stir in the egg until combined.
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
Rinse the eggplant slices quickly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the eggplant on both sides with olive oil. Preheat a grill pan or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the eggplant on both sides until very tender, about 4 minutes per side.
Spoon a thin layer of the tomato sauce into a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish. To make each eggplant roll, place a spoonful of the cheese mixture near one end of a slice and roll up the slice. As each roll is formed, place it seam side down in the dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the rolls, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 Tbs. Parmesan.
Bake the rolls until the sauce is bubbling and the rolls are heated through, about 25 minutes. Divide the rolls among individual plates and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen