serves: 6 servings
I'm offering you the basic recipe for filling these eggplant rolls. You can take it in any direction you like, adding spinach, raisins, pine nuts, prosciutto or whatever else sounds good to you. Eggplant rollatini are versatile in another way, too. Because the individual rolls are easy to serve, they are wonderful as a first course for a big crowd-like a family gathering-or as part of an Italian-American buffet. For a smaller crowd, this makes a substantial main course that needs only a first course salad to make it a meal.
If you'd like to make these simple rolls even easier to fill, you can cut the sticks of mozzarella into little cubes and stir them right into the ricotta filling.
1½ pounds fresh ricotta cheese, or 3 cups packaged whole-milk ricotta
2 medium eggplant, each about 4 inches wide and about pound
½ cup olive oil, or as needed
½ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 x 1/4-inch sticks
8 fresh basil leaves, optional
Spoon the ricotta into a large, fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Set the sieve over a bowl and cover the ricotta well with plastic wrap. Drain the ricotta in the refrigerator at least overnight, or up to 24 hours. Discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Make the tomato sauce.
Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1-inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices and place them in a colander. Sprinkle generously with the coarse salt, tossing to expose all slices, and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain throroughly and pat dry.