Vegetarian Eggplant Rolls with Savory Tomato Sauce and Fresh Ricotta Cheese


I make these rolls often in the summer, when my garden is overloaded with eggplant.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 1 ½ cups)
⅔ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on the rolls
8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Savory Tomato Sauce (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill. (Or just before you’re ready to cook the eggplant, heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot.)

3. Stir the olive oil and vinegar together in a small bowl and brush onto both sides of the eggplant slices; season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant for 3-4 minutes per side, until tender and golden brown. Transfer the eggplant slices to a rimmed baking sheet with the short edges facing you.

4. Stir the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and half of the basil together in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto each slice of the eggplant about 1 inch from the bottom edge, leaving a ¼-inch border on each side roll each slice away from you and arrange the rolls seam side down on the baking sheet. Spoon the tomato sauce over the rolls and place them in the oven for about 15 minutes to warm through. Top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and the remaining basil and serve warm.
Savory Tomato Sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 minced shallots and saute for about 2 minutes to soften them. Add 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown. Add ½ cup dry red wine, 1 ½ pounds cored and chopped plum tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes (with their Juices), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano; season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes to thicken.

Variation: Stir in ¼ cup heavy cream for Creamy Tomato Sauce.

Variation: Add ¼ cup pitted chopped olives, 2 tablespoons drained capers, and a few chopped anchovies (if desired) for Puttanesca Sauce.