This is a twist on what you may know as Eggplant Rollatini, but instead of stuffing the eggplant with just ricotta cheese and herbs, I stuffed it with ratatouille and ricotta cheese. I made enough for an army, and I planned to cook it in two batches- one right after the other. But as soon as these babies came out of the oven, I was overwhelmed by the smell of roasted vegetables, lemon-spiked ricotta cheese, and bubbling tomato sauce. When I resurfaced a few hours later from eggplant heaven, I remembered I still had another batch to cook before bed. As I write this, it is 11:30 pm and the second batch in baking in my oven. Oh well, there are worse reasons to stay up late. There is roasting garlic wafting out of my kitchen, and I think I am getting hungry again. I highly recommend making this on a weekend, mainly because there are a lot of steps.
You will need:
2 small eggplants (I like to use smaller eggplants because they are less bitter, but if you cannot find them, a single larger eggplant will be fine)
1 medium red bell pepper
1 pint of white button mushrooms
½ of a yellow squash
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese
A lemon – for the zest
½ cup of bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
16 oz of tomato sauce (on a weekend I probably would have made my own, but because it was a school night, I used Rao’s) (use 8oz per batch)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of dried thyme
Shredded parmesan cheese (for sprinkling at the end)
Fresh basil (2-3 leaves)
First, cut off the stem on your eggplants and then slice them vertically into thin slices. Lay out paper towel on a clean counter and place the eggplant slices onto the towel. Lightly dust both sides of the eggplant with kosher salt and let it sit for 30-60 minutes. If you are using a bigger (older) eggplant, I would let it sit for the full hour. My little guys only needed about 30 minutes, but then again, I am impatient. The salt will draw out any water trapped in the eggplant and reduce the bitterness.
While your eggplant is resting, dice the red pepper, squash, and mushrooms and mince the garlic. This will be the ratatouille stuffing in your rollatini.
Then heat about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the minced garlic in a large pan. Once the garlic becomes fragrant and turns a golden brown color, put the diced vegetables into the pan. Sauté the vegetables for approximately 10 minutes, or until they become soft and flavorful to taste. Stir frequently so the olive oil and garlic evenly coats the vegetables. Once the vegetables are fully cooked, transfer them to a bowl or plate.
While the vegetables are cooking, you can make the lemon-spiked ricotta stuffing. In a small bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, zest of the lemon, thyme, and about a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Next, pour about a thin layer (approx 4 oz) of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Spread it around with a spatula so the bottom of the pan is completely covered.
By this point your eggplant should be about ready to cook. First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then, blot your eggplant with dry paper towels to remove any moisture that formed from the salt. Next take the sauté pan that you used to cook the vegetable and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot, place the eggplant slices into the pan- as many as you can fit. Working in batches, saute the eggplant for 2-3 minutes on each side- or until they turn a golden brown color. Transfer the eggplant slices to a plate lined with paper towels- to soak up any excess oil.
Once you are done cooking all of the slices, take each slice, place a teaspoon (or less) of the ricotta mixture on the end of each slice. Then, place a teaspoon of the ratatouille stuffing on top of the ricotta cheese, and roll the eggplant up like a spring roll. Place each of the rolls into the baking pan and then pour a think layer of the tomato sauce on top of the rolls(approx 4oz).
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Pull the baking sheet out about halfway, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and put back into the oven for another minute. Top with thinly sliced fresh basil and enjoy!