eggplant rollatini

The only thing I can remember cooking for the last several years that turned out so badly that not only did I refuse to eat it, but even Dave did, is grilled eggplant. I don’t remember what went wrong – cook time too long? cook temp too low? too high? salt, don’t salt, cut thicker cut thinner, I don’t know – but the resulting mush of eggplant goo is all too vivid still.

I hadn’t eaten eggplant since. I’ve seen recipes in which every other component sounded like something I would enjoy, but as soon as I spotted that nefarious eggplant in the ingredient list, I scrolled right on past. I knew I’d have to try eggplant again someday. But I wasn’t ready then.

Now I am. Cheese and tomato sauce is never a bad way to ease into an ingredient. Each grilled slice of eggplant is rolled with a slice of cheese, then topped with a quick marinara sauce and heated until the flavors meld and the cheese softens. For me, they were too messy to serve as a hand-held hors d’œuvre, but instead made for a very nice plated first course. That’s right, a recipe with eggplant was very nice. I’m one step closer toward liking eggplant again.

One year ago: Pasta with Baked Ricotta and Sweet Tomato Sauce
Two years ago: Vegetarian Chili
Three years ago: Salmon Pesto Pasta

Printer Friendly Recipe
Eggplant Rollatini (adapted from Cara’s Cravings)

I just stick a pair of kitchen shears into the can of tomatoes and chop away a bit. It’s coarser than a puree, but still just fine for sauce. If you want it smoother, puree the tomatoes in the food processor.

We grilled the eggplant; I haven’t personally tried the roasting technique recommended in the original Gourmet recipe.

4 small Italian eggplants or 2 regular eggplants
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, chopped, undrained
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
16 thin slices provolone cheese
½ ounce (¼ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese

1. Peel 2 opposite long sides of each eggplant. Cut each eggplant lengthwise (to form long skinny ovals) into 1/4-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides of the slices with kosher salt; set aside for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until it flows like water when the pan is tilted; add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the basil.

3. Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over moderate heat (or line a large baking sheet with foil and heat the oven to 450 degrees). Brush any remaining salt crystals from the eggplant; pat the slices dry and spray both sides with nonstick spray. Grill the eggplant, turning once, until tender, about 4 minutes total (or bake for 20 minutes, turning once). Transfer to a work surface.

4. Top each slice of eggplant with a slice of cheese; starting at a short end, roll the eggplant and cheese into a spiral and seal with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and cheese. Arrange the eggplant spirals in a shallow baking pan and top with the sauce; bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.


  1. Branny says:

    I once wrote a blog post about how everyone has a bad eggplant story. Thanks for sharing yours! This looks like a nice, healthy alternative to eggplant parmigiana.

  2. I love grilled eggplant! This looks pretty tasty. Glad you’re starting to come around to liking eggplant.

  3. I’ve made my share of eggplant disasters that no one ever saw. :) This dish looks delicious though and would be perfect for my goal to eat more veggies!

  4. I love eggplant- this looks excellent!

  5. Sara says:

    I keep thinking I like eggplant until I actually have it and then I remember that I don’t really like it after all. I still always think eggplant recipes sound good.

  6. Carrie says:

    I have had more than one eggplant disaster as well – and I’ve always stopped using it for a long time afterwards, too. Actually, I’m currently in the not-using-eggplant phase right now after a disasaterous minestrone. :)

    This, however, looks lovely and elegant. I love how the eggplant is rolled with the cheese. I’m going to save it for when I’m ready for another eggplant dish!

  7. Sharlene says:

    Eggplant is one of my favorite ingredients in Italian cooking though, like you, I haven’t had great experiences making it myself. Congratulations on a winning dish!

  8. Dani says:

    mmmmmm… this looks deeelicious! Love the simplicity of the recipe and it’s such a light, fresh version of what can often be a super heavy meal!!

  9. Cara says:

    I love love love your pictures! Seriously, why must you always be outdoing me? hehe. Glad you are finally coming around to eggplant :) What recipe will you try next?

  10. oh yum….i love eggplant, and totally want to eat this!

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