Welcome autumn! This post just might make it under the wire before eggplant and tomatoes go out of season. This transition into fall, with the days getting perceptively shorter, and the election looming closer, feels weirdly bizarre and significant. I’m happy to be here in Sonoma County where our farmers gift us with the fruits (and veggies) of their labor. I am so very grateful. The future is unknown, but for now, I can make it better by supporting local farmers and eating foods in season. So, with all of that in mind, I give you ….. Involtini….
The Italian verb – involtare – means to wrap up or envelope, hence the name involtini. One of my favorite Italian cookbooks, Spoon, lists no less than 22 types of involtini. The French call these roll-ups roulades.
A popular version in northern Italy might include a slice of veal wrapped around a filling of spinach, carrots, and mozzarella. In the south of Italy, sliced eggplant or zucchini would be wrapped around a ricotta filling.
The possibilities for the outer wrap are endless: Use a cabbage leaf, a radicchio leaf, a lengthwise slice of zucchini or eggplant, a strip of leek, roasted bell pepper, and for the meat-eaters, prosciutto, bresaola, veal, or beef.
I adapted this eggplant involtini recipe from Tartine, the book by Chad Robertson that has become the bible of sourdough bread baking. Because of the use of bread crumbs, they include this involuti recipe in the chapter on days-old bread. In Italy, bread has sacred qualities and should never be wasted. Also, this recipe provides instructions for tomato sauce, but feel free to use your own version or favorite tomato sauce.
Eggplant and Ricotta Involtini
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 16 oz. can tomatoes or 1 lb fresh tomatoes
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups ricotta
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (either storebought or from days-old bread)
- 1 lemon -zest and juice
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 2-3 large globe eggplants
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup heavy cream (can substitute almond or rice milk)
- ¼ cup grated parmigiana cheese
Prep the Eggplant
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Using a mandoline or sharp chef's knife, slice eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Make 12 slices. Sprinkle slices with salt, stack side by side in a colander, and let drain for 1 hour. Squeeze out the extra water and place on paper towels for 10 minutes. Grease a cookie sheet with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and bake eggplant slices for 10 minutes on each side. They should be soft and ready for rolling.
- To make the tomato sauce, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook 2 minutes until fragrant. Add carrot and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for 10 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix ricotta, bread crumbs, rosemary, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
- Using a medium baking dish, pour in all the tomato sauce. Then place a spoonful of filling at the end of eggplant slice and roll up tightly. Place the eggplant rolls in the baking dish on top of the tomato sauce. Pour heavy cream over top of the eggplant rolls to moisten.
- Bake for 25 minutes at 425° F. Garnish with parmigiana cheese.