A quick, easy and light way to prepare a delicious “antipasto” (appetizer) with eggplant or aubergine, a staple vegetable of the Italian cuisine (for more info about eggplant see melanzane alla parmigiana). Eggplant is a very versatile vegetable, you can prepare it in different ways: for example, I like it with pasta such as fregola con melanzane, a typical Sardinian recipe or the well-known classic dish, melanzane alla parmigiana, the Sicialian way!
Eggplant is traditionally fried – delicious and irresistible – but if you prefer a lighter recipe, I would suggest grilling it, either on a griddle or over an open grill. The addition of fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil makes this recipe a perfect summer serving that embodies all the typical flavors of beautiful Italy. You can substitute mozzarella with ricotta cheese, as well, and in this case you can enjoy it cold it too.
INVOLTINI DI MELANZANE (EGGPLANT ROLLS)
2 eggplants (900 g, about 2 pounds)
400 ml (1 ½ cups) tomato sauce
450 g (1 pound) mozzarella for pizza, coarsely grated
6-7 basil leaves + some for decoration
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin) + some for grilling
Oregano and freshly ground pepper
1. Wash the eggplant under cold water. Cut off the ends and slice vertically into thin (6 mm, ¼ in) slices. Arrange one layer of slices in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat this procedure until all eggplant slices are in the colander. Weigh down the slices with something heavy, (for example three plates) and let them drain for at least one hour. This step helps release some of the bitter liquid before cooking. You can skip it if you don’t have a lot of time, but I usually do it because you obtain a better flavor
2. In a saucepan over a medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the tomato sauce, a pinch of oregano, basil and freshly ground pepper to taste. (I personally do not add salt because my cooking is low in salt, but this depends on your taste). Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside. I recommend using a dense tomato sauce rather than a liquid one
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
4. When the eggplant slices have drained, press down on the slices to remove the excess water, wipe off the excess salt well and dry with paper towels
5. Grill the eggplant slices on a heated griddle lightly greased with some olive oil. Turn once
6. On each eggplant slice (for the smaller ones, you can combine two lengthwise, to have all the same length), spread with a half of a spoon of tomato sauce, cover with some mozzarella and roll. Repeat to finish all the ingredients
7. Place the rolls either in 4 individual baking pans or just in one larger one. Pour a teaspoon of tomato sauce on top of each roll and bake for 5-7 minutes until mozzarella melts. Remove from the oven let rest on a grid for 2 minutes and serve warm. – Paola