If you make your own cheese on occasion you can consider it to be “a…
No pasta? No problem! Grilled eggplant is a perfect pasta replacement while loading you up on vegetables. This cheesy and saucy dish makes for a guilt-free Italian dinner!
Sometimes when I plan on cooking Italian meals, I fear that they can be super heavy and carb focused. A lot of times when you’re adding vegetables as the main component they get breaded and thrown in the fryer. I love playing around with classic Italian flavors but on a lighter scale, which is exactly how my version of eggplant rollatini came to be. There is no frying and no breading but I assure you the flavors are on point!
If you haven’t guessed already, I love my grill. That’s the benefit of living in Florida, you can grill more throughout the year than in other colder states. Grilled food adds a different depth of flavor without tons of oil. It also helps dry out the eggplant enough that there isn’t a pool of moisture at the bottom of your casserole, and it cooks the slices perfectly for a pliable roll.
This can be a great spring dish while the weather is still unpredictable. With this recipe, you’re getting a hearty dinner with light flavors that would remind you that grill season is in full bloom! Plus, if you’re anything like me, you always have sauce and cheese on hand so it really doesn’t take a whole lot to make this dinner.
This recipe does take a few additional techniques that are easy to learn. You do need to sweat your eggplant by adding salt and then wiping down after 20 minutes.
If you’re not a grill master, that’s ok. Just learn to turn your grill or indoor grill pan onto medium or medium-high heat and you’re good to go. Obviously you’re not messing around with internal temperatures, so less worry. You just want to avoid burning or cooking the eggplant too high too fast.
You need to be able to roll cheese into the eggplant slices…easy…not a problem. Then when you layer and organize your rolls, just make sure they all have a place in the pan. Okay, so it’s not that technical if you think about it…it just looks like it. That’s exactly what you want people to think when you place this in the center of the table looking beautiful and delicious!
- 2 medium eggplants sliced lengthwise 1/3" thick
- salt for sweating
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 1 medium onion diced, divided
- 4 cups baby spinach fresh, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ cups ricotta cheese part skim
- ½ 8 oz. block cream cheese fat free or low fat
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 12 oz. bag meatless veggie crumbles frozen, slightly defrosted
- 4 cups marinara sauce divided
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella part skim or fat free
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- fresh herbs (basil, thyme or parsley) to garnish
- Slice eggplant about 1/3”-1/2” thick, lengthwise (like steaks) while keeping the skin on. Lay over a bed of towels and salt both sides of the eggplant. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
- When eggplants are done sweating, wipe the excess moisture and salt from both sides and brush both sides with olive oil.
- Preheat grill to medium high heat.
- When grill is heated, place eggplants on the grill for 4-6 minutes on one side until they develop grill marks and then flip and cook for 4-6 minutes on the other side for additional grill marks. Remove from the grill, season with salt and pepper, and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat with olive oil or on stick cooking spray. Sauté half the diced onion and two minced garlic cloves together for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. Add spinach until it slightly wilts and remove from pan to another plate or bowl so it can cool.
- In the same frying pan add olive oil or non stick cooking spray. Sauté the other half of the diced onion and the last two minced garlic cloves together for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. Add veggie crumbles and cook until defrosted and warmed through. Reserve one cup of sauce and then add the rest of the tomato sauce to the pan and heat through for 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
- In a large mixing bowl or kitchen stand mixer, combine ricotta, cream cheese, salt and pepper and then add the onion/spinach/garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until assembly.
- Preheat the oven to 400°
- Coat a cast iron skillet or baking dish with non stick cooking spray or more olive oil. Spread reserved sauce on the bottom of the baking dish or cast iron skillet.
- Take a slab of the grilled eggplant and add a large dollop or about 2-3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture to the base of the eggplant. (Optional, you can add some of the shredded mozzarella here or wait until the end). Gently roll the eggplant from one end to the other and place the sealed side down in the pan with the sauce. Repeat this step with all eggplant.
- Once all the eggplant is rolled, cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and add grated parmesan, if desired, and bake for an additional 7-10 minutes.
- Top with fresh herbs (basil, parsley or thyme) and more grated parmesan (if desired) and serve.