So, I thought after the first post, everything would magically get 238 times easier. I was wrong. I still find myself stumbling through the whole blog thing, googling anything and everything that goes wrong, and making the same realization that I really don’t know what I’m doing about every 5 minutes. That being said, I can’t say I’m not enjoying it!
The other day, I was at the market and compulsively bought an eggplant. I have no idea why I was so drawn to it, but I was, so I bought it. Then it sat in my fridge, untouched, for about 4 days. Finally, I made myself take it out and do something with it for fear of it becoming a shrively purple lump that I forgot about in the back of the refrigerator. I have this theory that when you’re in doubt, CHEESE is usually a good idea. It’s worked pretty well for me in the past, so I decided to put it to the test again. The result: eggplant roll-ups with a ricotta filling, smothered in simple tomato sauce, and generously sprinkled some more cheese…YUUUMMM!! Added bonus: it’s actually a pretty healthy dish- winner!!
Eggplants…such a controversial vegetable. Some hate it for its flavorless yet spongy nature, and other just love is. I’m pretty neutral about the veggie itself, but am a big fan of it when it’s stuffed and topped with cheese.
Let’s get started. First, heat your oven to 375F. Lop off the top and bottom of your eggplant, and slice it lengthwise. Each slices should be about 1/2 inch thick (actually, I really have no idea how thick it is, so there are pictures for you to reference and make your own judgment) – definitely doesn’t have to be exact. I had 10 slices total.
In order to roll the eggplant up, you need to get them to be a roll-able texture. I chose to steam them- spa day for my little eggplants! Heat up a your largest pan to high, and place as many slices will fit (mine only fit 2 at a time). Brown each side (about 30-60 seconds each). If your pan is not nonstick, I would suggest using a smidgen of oil so it doesn’t stick. Once both sides are slightly browned, hold the top of the pan in one hand and a little glass of water in the other. Pour a little bit of water in the pan (maybe about a tablespoon) and cover immediately to steam until eggplant is pliable. I let mine go for about a minute or so. Set aside and repeat with all slices. I know, this step seems tedious, but it’s worth it! Another alternative would be to lay them all out on a baking sheet and bake them, but I haven’t tried that method, so have no directions to offer.
Next, time to make the sauce. Well, I guess if you’re skilled at multi-tasking, you can do this part while steaming the eggplant. Dice your onion, mince the garlic, and chop up some herbs of choice. I had rosemary, oregano and thyme- basil would also be a tasty option. You should aim for about 1 tbsp total, but you can sub 1 tsp dried herbs. Heat up a pot (or pan, whatever you want) to medium heat with a little oil (1 tsp should do it). Sautee onions until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for another minute (you add the garlic after so it doesn’t burn…burnt garlic is no good), Then add a jar of your favorite marinara sauce (mine was 26oz). I got a little help from my friend (trader) Joe- you can also call upon any of your other friends: Ralph(‘s), Albert(sons), Tom (Thumb), Jewel (Osco)…take your pick. I’ve learned that tomatoes really like to splatter (have you ever microwaved a bowl of spaghetti and found a sauce explosion that somehow found its way into all the annoyingly small crevices of your microwave? I have. Many times). So when you add the sauce, have a top ready to cover it right away. Turn the heat down to low, and the spewing sauce should calm down soon after. Add the sugar, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 your herbs, a generous pinch of salt (adjust according to how sodium-laden your jarred sauce is) and pepper. Cover it back up, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (just don’t let it burn the bottom of the pan)
Cheese time! Mix ricotta cheese and cottage cheese (both can be of a fat-free variety if so desired. Like all fat free versions, it will be a little less rich than the full fat version. The sacrifices we make to save a couple of calories…) garlic powder, the remaining 1/2 of the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. I know what you’re thinking- cottage cheese?? Trust me, it’s good. It adds bulk, cheesy flavor, and an extra punch of protein. Then, just spoon some of the cheese mixture onto your eggplant slice and roll it up. The goal is to evenly divide the cheese mixture amongst all your eggplant slices, but again, doesn’t have to be perfect by any means.
Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce into a casserole dish (whatever size will fit all your eggplants) and line the eggplants up on top of the sauce. Pour the remainder of the sauce on top, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (kind of reminiscent of enchiladas!). I used shredded cheese b/c that’s what I had, but you could use fresh if you want. Or you can do any other kind of melty cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes. To get a nice browned cheesy layer, you can take the additional step of broiling it. I just left the pan in the oven and cranked the dial up to “broil” after the 20 minutes was up. When the cheese is browned, it’s done. Mine took about 5 or 6 minutes on broil. You want to watch it carefully because the cheese will burn pretty quickly. The amount of sauce may be little much for some, but it was perfect for me b/c I can basically eat tomato sauce like it’s tomato soup (it’s basically the same thing, right?) If you’re not such a saucy person, just add less of the marinara sauce, or save the remainder for some other purpose. Also, expect some of the ricotta mixture to spill out of the rolls into the sauce. Don’t worry, it makes the sauce that much better!
And that’s it!! You now have a very comforting, decently health, and alluringly cheesy dish to share with your friends, pack for lunch for the next couple days, or pig out on by yourself (totally acceptable if you used the fat free options!)
I served mine on top of cauliflower rice. At trader joes (and I’m sure everywhere else, too), they sell bags of frozen riced cauliflower- I absolutely love this stuff, and put it so many things (smoothies, to name one. No judgment remember?) I just sauteed some with a little season salt and pepper. So simple, definitely healthy, and a nice complement to your new favorite eggplant dish.
- 1 eggplant
- 2 tsp oil divided
- Water for steaming
- ½ small onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 jar marinara sauce (26-oz)
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- ½ tsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chopped herbs of choice, divided
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- (cauliflower rice for serving)
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Cut top and bottom off your eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Heat up pan to high heat. Drizzle a bit of oil if your pan is not nonstick and brown each side for about 1 minute each. Pour about 1 tbsp of water into the pan and cover immediately to steam for about 1.5 mins. Set aside and repeat for all slices.
- For tomato sauce, heat up pot to medium heat, add oil and cook onions until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add jar of marinara sauce and stir (careful, it may splatter). Turn down heat to low and add sugar, crushed red pepper, tomato paste, half of herbs, and salt and pepper. Let mixture simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Make cheese mixture: mix together ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, garlic powder, remainder of herbs, and salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp each)
- Place 2-3 tbsp of the cheese mixture on eggplant slice and gently roll up. Repeat with all slices.
- Spread thin layer of tomato sauce into casserole dish, and place eggplant roll-up on the sauce. Pour remainder of sauce over the roll-ups. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- (Optional: after 20 minutes, turn the broiler on and keep them in the oven until the cheese is browned. This took mine about 5 extra minutes)
- I served mine with a simple cauliflower rice. Sautée some frozen riced cauliflower in a pan with some oil, season salt, and pepper.