Eggplant is one of my favorite dishes. I don’t care how you prepare it, it’s all good. For years I was a firm believer that if you didn’t fry the eggplant it wasn’t worth cooking. I’ve since curbed that idea and have found you can prepare the eggplant differently for certain dishes and not lose the flavor or quality. Grilled eggplant works so well for some dishes, fried for others, and yes, I even found that baking your eggplant properly can do a dish justice. And save on some calories as well. I have tested making eggplant Parmigiano baking the breaded eggplant instead of frying. It actually came out very good. Not exactly like the fried version, but very close. For us older folks you have to weigh the dietary benefit of making it that way. I find that as I get older I cannot tolerate fried foods as much as I did when I was younger. So, you have to adapt. Now, for you young whippersnappers out there, fry away. You can take any recipe I have for baking and fry the food instead. Whatever works for you.
Eggplant rollatine works very well with baking the eggplant. I don’t bread the eggplant in this dish, I find the flavors of the ricotta, and tomato basil sauce, along with a top quality pecorino Romano cheese brings out the best in the eggplant that way. When my grandmother prepared eggplant Parmigiano she never breaded the eggplant. She didn’t even use any mozzarella! You can find my recipe for that here. We have come to know many American versions of Italian food. Sometimes it’s best to stick to your roots.
If you are a member of Weight Watchers you will be happy to know that the following dish serves 10 and each serving is only 6 points. If you are not concerned with calories you should use whole milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
- 2 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4″ thick
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 large egg
- 15 ounce part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 3-4 shaves of fresh nutmeg or 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
- 3 cups of homemade Marinara Sauce, recipe here *
- 1/2 pound part skim shredded mozzarella
*leave out the butter and only use 3 tablespoons of olive oil for Weight Watchers version.
First thing is to prepare the eggplant. Slice the eggplant 1/4 inch thick long ways. Use a mandolin slicer if you have one. I like the OXO Good Grips V-Blade slicer. If you do it with a knife, use a very sharp or serrated blade for the best cut. You should wind up with 20 usable slices of eggplant. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant with kosher salt and let sit to drain in a colander for about 1/2 hour. Dry each slice off with a paper towel.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a large sheet pan, lightly spray the pan with olive oil. Place the eggplant on the pan in a single layer, fitting as many slices as you can side by side. Lightly spray the top of the eggplant with the olive oil. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Use 2-3 pans if you need to fit all the eggplant in one time. Don’t over cook at this point, it’s easier to handle if it’s a little under cooked. The eggplant will finish cooking later. Once cooked remove the foil (save it for later) and allow to cool enough for you to handle
While the eggplant is cooking, in a medium bowl, mix the egg, ricotta, grated cheese, spinach, garlic, salt, pepper and ground nutmeg till well combined. Set aside.
Add about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread it out evenly.
On your work surface lay out two slices of cooked eggplant slightly overlapping each other long ways. Spoon about 3 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto the short end of the eggplant.
Carefully roll the eggplant around the ricotta filling and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish.
Do the same with the remaining eggplant until you have 10 servings. If you have any eggplant left over, no problem. Just double layer some of the rollatine with them. I don’t like wasting anything. I even cook the little scraps and just add it right in when I roll up the eggplant.
Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the eggplant.
Cover with the shredded mozzarella and another 2 tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.