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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!