Happy New Year everyone! I’m kicking off 2016 with an Eggplant Involtini recipe. Involtini is an interesting word for the non-Italian speaker like me.
When I told my friend Tedd that I was making Eggplant Involtini, he told me it sounded like an eggplant dish that you make against your will. “No,” I corrected him. “It sounds like an eggplant dish you make against your will just a little bit.” And then we laughed, because we’re both fools for wordplay.
How This Eggplant Involtini Recipe Came About
Truth be told, I hadn’t exactly planned to make Eggplant Involtini. This recipe was born in an attempt to rescue some leftover ingredients from another recipe. A week ago I made Italian Beef Braciole. And as I noted in the post, I made way too much cheese filling. I was trying to figure out what to do with that additional filling, and then it occurred to me. Involtini, which actually doesn’t mean “a little involuntary,” but is simply the Italian word for “roll”, is what braciole are typically called in Italy. That put me on the path to other kinds of braciole (involtini). Most versions involve thin slices of some sort of meat or fish, but you can also make them from thin slices of vegetables like zucchini or, in this case, eggplant. And the rest is history.
Eggplant Involtini Technique from Cook’s Illustrated
The folks at America’s Test Kitchen (the people who produce Cook’s Illustrated magazine) have developed a really interesting technique for making Eggplant Involtini. This people, as you may well know, are lunatics. They’re mad scientists of the kitchen, willing to make 50 batches of a recipe, manipulating one variable at a time to make the ultimate version. To be honest, I think transforming cooking from an art to empirical hard science takes a bit of the joy out of the endeavor. However, that doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate the efforts of others. I am more than willing to benefit from the noble effort of these mad scientists after they’ve been good enough to go to all of that trouble. But I digress…
Usually Eggplant involtini is baked in a casserole in the oven, which can render the eggplant soggy and mushy after swimming in the tomato sauce under heat. This problem is avoided in a dish like Eggplant Parmesan by dipping the eggplant in egg and breading it. Of course that adds a lot of carbs to the dish, which I always want to avoid. It also makes for a much heavier dish.
Rather than baking the involtini in a casserole, the Cook’s Illustrated chefs simmer them on the stove-top in an ovenproof skillet. Then, once the filling is melted and heated through, they finish the dish off under the broiler until the tops of the involtini are browned. This provides an awesome smokey char on the eggplant. It’s so good! So I’ve adopted their technique here. If you Google Eggplant Involtini recipes, you’ll see a lot of other people have adopted it too.
About This Eggplant Involtini Recipe
My sauce isn’t a very traditional Italian red gravy. It’s infused with orange zest and smoked Spanish paprika, which is a flavor profile I’m rather fond of. It’s more akin to a French Provençale tomato sauce, a la Julie Child. In this application it totally rocks! It works extremely well with the toasted pine nuts and raisins in the cheese filling. I’m really pleased by the way this turned out. I hope you’ll give it a go. If you do, let me know how it turned out.
I should add that this dish is a bit over my normal carb limit of 30 net grams per dish (it’s got 33 grams). If you’re diabetic or are otherwise sensitive to carbs, here’s fair warning (fare warning?). In these sorts of cases I usually just reduce the portion size (as you can see in the photos, I plated only one involtini) and try to pair it with a protein.
Oh yeah, one more note about the new year: I finally have an email newsletter. Please take a moment to sign up in the upper right corner. You’ll get an email every time I post a new recipe.
- 2 Large Globe Eggplant
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
- 2 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- ½ Cup Golden Raisins
- ½ Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
- ¼ Cup Chopped Italian Parsley
- ¼ Cup Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
- 1 Large Yellow Onion
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
- ½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
- ½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Cup Dry Red Wine
- 1 Large (28 Ounce) Cans of Whole Tomatoes
- 1 6 Ounce Can Tomato Paste
- Zest of One Orange
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Cut the ends off of the eggplants. Peel them if you prefer no skin on your involtini (I left the skin on). Slice the eggplant lengthwise into ½ inch slabs. Your goal is to get eight to ten slabs.
- Brush both sides of each eggplant slab with the olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake until tender and just beginning to brown, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer eggplant to a wire rack to keep them from steaming and getting soggy.
- Meanwhile, cut the mozzerella into a fine dice. Add the remaining filling ingredients.
- To construct the involtini, place about two tablespoons of the filling on one end of a slab of roasted eggplant. Roll the eggplant up and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
- Peel and dice the onion and saute in the olive oil and salt in a heavy bottomed stock pot until the onion is translucent (about 12 minutes).
- Add the garlic and herbs, saute until garlic is cooked and fragrant, but not burned.
- Deglaze by adding the red wine. Cook until the wine is reduced in volume by half.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, orange zest, and paprika.. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour the red sauce into an ovenproof skillet. Place the eggplant involtini into the sauce leaving a bit of space between each. The tops of the involtini should be above the surface of the sauce.
- Preheat the broiler of your oven with the top oven rack about 8 inches below the heating elements. .
- Bring the skillet of sauce to a simmer on the stove top. Simmer for about 12 minutes to heat the involtini enough to melt the filling.
- Move the skillet to the broiler and broil until the tops of the involtini are well browned. Keep a close eye so they don’t burn. Remove from the broiler. Top with a bit of extra pecorino romano if you like.