Best-selling cookbook author, Emmy award-winning television show host and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich is stopping by the TODAY kitchen to share classic, comforting recipes from her newest cookbook, "Lidia's From Our Family Table to Yours: More Than 100 Recipes Made with Love for All Occasions." She shows us how to prepare cheese-stuffed eggplant rollatini with fresh tomato sauce and juicy pork chops with earthy mushrooms and spicy pepperoncini.
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Eggplant rollatini is more of a Southern Italian dish, but although she was from the North, my mother, Grandma Erminia, loved it. Her mother, Rosa, made plenty of ricotta from the milk the family goats gave. Ricotta is so versatile in the kitchen, and I love cooking with it, from appetizers to desserts. It makes everybody happy, but at our house, especially when a bubbling pan of eggplant rollatini is delivered to the table, there are extra-big smiles. I would make these eggplant rollatini for Grandma Erminia on her birthday, and at other times, too, as she got on in age (God blessed her to live to be a hundred). They were light and soft, so easy for her to eat. She always asked if there were some left for tomorrow and I always made sure to have some extra saved for her.
My family loves this dish. The pork is relatively low-fat for meat, and the pickled pepperoncino peppers give the whole thing a bit of spicy kick. You can prepare this dish with rib pork chops, as called for in this recipe, or loin pork chops, which look like T-bones and are often less expensive.
I really like pickled Tuscan pepperoncini. I use them in an antipasto, in sandwiches, to make spicy pasta sauces and I especially love to cook them with pork or chicken. You can find them in the Italian or Greek section of the grocery store, usually in a long cylindrical glass bottle.
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