Bergen Review's Favorite Recipe's
This Eggplant Involtini recipe is a healthier, lighter, and more satisfying take on the old-school Italian classic. Eggplant slices are first baked in the oven (rather than fried) and stuffed with a soft and creamy ricotta mixture, then finished in a rich tomato sauce. Serve it as a hearty vegetarian meal or side dish to accompany any main dishes. Eggplant is most certainly one of my favorite vegetables. While I love any Italian dish with eggplant like Eggplant Baked Ziti, a fun Mediterranean vegetarian stuffed eggplant, or a classic like Turkish Stuffed Eggplant, transforming eggplant into involtini is quick, easy, and delicious.
Why Should You Try This Recipe?
Eggplant and ricotta are a match made in heaven – and for good reason. An America’s Test Kitchen recipe that stood the test of time, I make this easy vegetarian recipe during the eggplant season. I know you will love it because:
Healthy and satisfying: Baking eggplant slices in the oven cuts down on prep time (and all the unwanted fat and calories from frying) and allows the meaty texture of eggplant to shine.
A feast for eyes: I always make this involtini recipe when I am entertaining. It’s one of those dishes that make people swoon as soon as you place it in the middle of the table. First, the smell hits them, and then the beauty of rolled eggplant with ricotta cheese simmering in tomato sauce.
Hearty and vegetarian: I love a vegetarian meal that can stand up on its own. Serve it with a crisp green salad such as my Spring Mix Salad or Butter Lettuce Salad on the side for a summery feel.
Yields: 4 servings Prep Time: 20 mins Cook Time: 40 mins Total: 1 hr.
For the eggplant, you will need two large eggplants, olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper.
To make the filling, gather together ricotta cheese, breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves, lemon juice, and lemon zest. For the tomato sauce, you will need olive oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, canned diced tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Ingredient Substitutions and Notes
Eggplant: When you are shopping for eggplant, I recommend buying shorter and wider ones that are similar in size. I buy globe eggplants that are widely available.
Ricotta Cheese: I use this Homemade Ricotta Cheese recipe, but you can use storebought full-fat ricotta as well.
Breadcrumbs: Use unseasoned regular breadcrumbs. Feel free to swap them out for gluten-free breadcrumbs instead.
Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese can be used interchangeably.
Fresh Herbs: Feel free to add more herbs to the ricotta cheese mixture, such as fresh parsley or oregano. Garnishing with fresh chopped parsley adds a special finishing touch.
Tomato Sauce: I like to make a simple tomato sauce from scratch. Or, if you want to save on time, use one jar (half a recipe) of this Homemade Tomato Sauce or any leftover marinara sauce you have in your fridge.
How to Make
The simplicity of this eggplant stuffed with ricotta really brings the eggplant into focus. Here’s how to make it:
Step 1: Bake Eggplant
Below are the basic steps to precook the eggplant slices for this recipe. However, if you wish to learn more about it, be sure to check my detailed post on Baked Eggplant Slices.
Prep equipment: Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Set up two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray.
Slice the eggplants: Cut the stem end off, then peel each eggplant with a vegetable peeler. Slice eggplant lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices. Trim the rounded ends for even cooking.
Coat with olive oil: Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Bake: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and soft to touch. Flip the eggplant slices and switch and rotate the sheets halfway through baking.
Step 2: Prepare The Ricotta Filling
Mix all ingredients: Combine ricotta cheese, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, chopped fresh basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
Step 3: Make the Tomato Sauce
Saute aromatics and seasonings: In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute over medium heat. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
Cook tomatoes: Stir in the canned diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat, until thickened for about 12 to 15 minutes.
Add basil: Once tomatoes have thickened, add the chopped basil, give it a large stir and turn off the heat.
Step 4: Assembly
Roll the eggplant: Evenly distribute the ricotta cheese mixture onto the widest end of each eggplant slice (bottom third of each slice). Then, gently roll eggplant slices with your hands. Place seam side down, in the pan with the tomato sauce.
Simmer, then broil: Once all the eggplant slices are in the pan, bring it back up to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, then broil for 5 more minutes in the oven.
Finish and serve: Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and chopped basil. When serving, place a rolled eggplant on a plate and spoon tomato sauce over.