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Three-Cheese Eggplant Rollatini

Serves 4 to 6

Eggplant Rollatini is an Italian dish in which the eggplant is grilled, broiled, as in this recipe, or sometimes fried, stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture, then rolled, topped with tomato sauce and baked. It is really quite easy and makes a delicious vegetarian entree, though it can be served as a side dish. In a pinch, you can use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce, but it does not take long to make your own. If necessary, the sauce can be made several days ahead and refrigerated. Serve for a family meal, casual entertaining or, since it is equally good hot or warm, it makes an ideal dish for a potluck event.


   Tomato Sauce    Eggplant and Cheese Stuffing

For the sauce, heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then the onions and carrots; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add tomatoes, wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until tomatoes have broken down and liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning. Remove from heat and let cool while proceeding.

For the eggplant and stuffing, preheat broiler to high. Remove the tops of the eggplants. Cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices vertically, from top to bottom. Brush a large baking sheet with a little olive oil. Place the slices, in batches, on the sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Place on rack 4-inches from broiler and broil until lightly browned and softened, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, prepare the cheese stuffing. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1/2 cup Romano cheeses. Add the garlic, basil, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.

To assemble, preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with spray or olive oil. Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on the short end of an eggplant slice and roll. Place in baking pan, seam side down. Continue with the remaining eggplant slices and cheese. Spread 1 cup of the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Bake until hot and bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes before serving. If desired, reheat the remaining sauce and pass separately.

Notes: Many people salt their eggplants before use. I do not find it to be necessary. Others remove the skin, but I believe it is the tastiest part of an eggplant and only remove blemished portions. This recipe can be prepared and assembled a day ahead of time, then refrigerated until baking. Leftover rollatini can be reheated in a 375° oven, covered, for about 45 minutes or until hot. The recipe can be made in any amount.