Tender eggplant, fresh basil and creamy cheese get rolled up, topped with tangy tomato sauce and drizzled with olive oil to make an intensely flavorful Italian appetizer.
Tomato Basil Sauce
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- One 28-ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 3 medium eggplants, ends removed, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 32 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- 8 tablespoons grated Parmesan, divided
- 20 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 2 cups tomato basil sauce (recipe above)
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
For the tomato basil sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the garlic just begins to turn golden brown.
Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, salt, and butter, and cook covered over low heat, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For the eggplant rollatini:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Place a rack over a large baking sheet. Arrange eggplant slices on rack and sprinkle with sea salt to help remove excess moisture and any bitterness. Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry with a towel.
3. Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat and oil liberally (if using nonstick cooking spray, spray the pan before heating to avoid flare ups). Cook eggplant slices until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices from the grill pan and let cool.
4. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta and eggs. Add mozzarella, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and gently combine, then fold in basil.
5. Place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on 1 end of a piece of eggplant and roll up tightly. Place the rolled eggplant into the prepared baking dish, seam-side down. Continue with remaining cheese and eggplant slices.
6. Evenly distribute the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with remaining 5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes. When cooked, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve.