Rollatini is a little like the love story of eggplant parm and lasagna. Typically rollatini is made by flouring and then frying thin slices of eggplant (like eggplant parm), which are then filled with a creamy ricotta cheese mixture (like lasagna). The resulting eggplant rolls are baked until tender in tomato sauce.
Rollatini is also a really great meal for those rare times when you might have a lasagna craving, but don't want pasta. Par-baking the eggplant rather than frying it cuts down on the prep time considerably, making this a comforting weeknight favorite you can put together in no time.
Par-baking is a term generally reserved for bread baking and pie making. Rolls and loaves are partially baked before freezing, or pie crust is baked before filling. What does that have to do with eggplant rollatini, you ask?
Well, par-baking the eggplant slices instead of frying them makes them more pliable and easy to roll. It also give the eggplant a head start on cooking before it is filled rolled and covered in tomato sauce. Since the oven is already preheated for baking the rollatini, par-baking eliminates the mess and time that the traditional frying step of rollatini requires. Be sure to line your baking sheet with parchment paper or risk the slices sticking to the hot pan.
The filling for this rollatini is the standard combination of ricotta, seasoning, and egg that you find in lasagna, stuffed shells, and sometimes ravioli. Adding a package of thawed-and-drained spinach to the filling makes the rollatini sit up a little higher when baked. It also makes them more filling.
Thaw the frozen spinach by placing it in a microwave-safe bowl, covering it with plastic wrap, and microwaving on high for 2 minutes. Remove and drain in a colander while you assemble the rest of the ingredients. Before adding the spinach to the filling, press down on it in the colander with a few layers of paper towels. The drier the spinach is going into the filling, the better.
How To Make Eggplant Rollatini
Makes 4 to 6 servings
What You Need
medium eggplants, about 1 pound each
grated Pecorino Romano cheese
red pepper flakes
frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 1/2 cups
shredded mozzarella cheese
finely chopped fresh basil or parsley leaves
Chef's knife and cutting board
Measuring cups and spoons
9x13-inch baking dish
Heat the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice the eggplants: Trim the stems from the eggplants. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. You should have about 12 slices.
Par-cook the eggplant: Lay a single layer of the eggplant slices on each of the parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until pliable, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the par-cooked slices to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining slices for a total of 2 batches.
Mix the filling: Combine the ricotta, Pecorino, egg, garlic, and pepper flakes in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the spinach.
Fill and roll: Pour 1/2 cup of the marinara into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Place 4 of the eggplant slices on a work surface. Spread each slice with 2 tablespoons of the filling, leaving about 1-inch uncovered at the top. Roll each slice from the bottom up towards the uncovered portion. Place the rollatinis seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat until all of the eggplant slices are filled and rolled.
Top the rollatinis: Pour the remaining marinara evenly over the rollatinis and sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella.
Bake: Bake until the cheese is melted and the rollatinis are tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before sprinkling with the herbs and serving.
Grated Parmesan can be substituted for the Pecorino Romano, if desired.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.