When I was in college, I paid my for my tuition by serving diners at an upscale Northern Italian restaurant called Twilight’s Ristorante. The executive chef, John, served an appetizer he called Melanzane Rotella, or rolled eggplant. This thing was so addictive; the staff ordered it for dinner almost nightly. I learned from John that the secret to this dish is the same ingredient which makes tira misu so delectable — mascarpone cheese.
When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, this was one of the few dishes I had in my arsenal that was gluten-free. It has always been one of my family’s go-to meals, and it’s the one that people request the recipe for most often.
Here it is, folks. No need to ask anymore. Andiamo a mangiare.
Italian Stuffed Eggplant
Serves 4 to 6
1 large purple eggplant, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin or sharp knife
olive oil, as needed
kosher salt, as needed
1 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup frozen loose leaf spinach
2 teaspoons minced garlic*
white pepper, to taste
1 32-ounce jar your favorite marinara sauce
1 – 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 2 cookie sheets with a thin coating of olive oil. Place eggplant slices on sheets; don’t overlap as much as possible. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until soft and pliable, about 15 – 20 minutes (depends on thickness of slices).
While your slices are roasting, mix the cheese with one egg, 1/2 cup spinach, garlic, another big pinch of sea salt, and some white pepper.
Prepare a 9×13 pan by coating it lightly with olive oil. When the eggplant is soft, place one slice in the 9×13 pan. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto one end of the slice, then roll it up, being careful not to burn your fingers. (I usually use a fork and spoon to roll the first half; the second half is usually cool enough to handle). Repeat this with each piece of eggplant until you have a tray full of stuffed, rolled eggplant.
Top the rolls with the full jar of marinara and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a salad.
Writing this blog post is making my mouth water.
*I used pre-packaged minced garlic packed in olive oil from Aldi.