Look… I have tried and tried to capture this dish in pictures. But, I just have my dinky little Coolpix and I can’t do it justice. I’ve finally decided that I need to just post the bastard and hope that you’ll trust me vs. your eyes.
I found some version of this recipe about 5 years ago in a Mario Batali cookbook, but the dish I make today is only a very distant cousin of that dish. For starters, I’ve cut every corner possible. If I’m going to invest an impressive amount of time and energy into a dish, it is going to be something a lot more impressive than eggplant rotini. Second, I like to bulk it up a bit with spinach and more filler. You can skip the greens if you want/are a Communist. Anywho, here goes..
Serves 6-8 as a side and 4 as a main dish
- 2 Large eggplant
- 1 Package chopped frozen spinach- thawed and strained
- 1 Cup ricotta- full-fat or low-fat is preferable to fat free
- 1 Egg, beaten
- ¼ Cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 Cups marinara sauce
- 3 Tablespoons chopped basil
- 1 Cup grated Italian cheese, such as Asiago, Mozzarella, etc.
1. Eggplant: Peel eggplant and slice very thinly (1/4 inch or less) lengthwise with a knife of mandolin. You should have long, thin strips of eggplant. At this point, eggplant can be grilled or broiled.
Grilled: Clean and oil grill. Spray or brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay on hot grill for ~1 minute on each side. Eggplant should be very slightly charred with some darker spots
b. Broiled: Preheat broiler and move rack to bottom middle position. Spray or brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Place eggplant on 2 cookie sheets and broil 2 minutes on each side
Set aside eggplant for later use. Preheat or decrease oven heat to 400 degrees
2. Filling: Combine spinach, egg, nutmeg and parmesan cheese in small bowl until combined. Stir in ricotta cheese and set aside
3. Assemble: Pour marinara into large pyrex or other oven-safe casserole dish and stir in chopped basil. Place approx 1 tablespoon of spinach filling at “fat” end of prepared eggplant. Carefully roll filled end towards thinner end until you have a stuffed tube. Place seam-side down in prepared dish. Fill dish compactly with rolled eggplant, sprinkle with grated cheese and cook until cheese is melted and spotty, approx 10 minutes.
Note: Dish can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature prior to heating and heat additional 3-5 minutes.