I have a lot to write about this recipe, so bear with me.
The first thing is that he doesn't really like things with ricotta, which things like rollatini and lasagna are filled with. I took note from my friend Michele and subbed in mostly feta for the lasagna. This recipe already uses some feta, so I switched the amounts - more feta, less ricotta. And you know what? It worked! He didn't love it, but it wasn't because of the ricotta this time. This is good to know. Now I can make lasagna again!
Alright, so the recipe itself is old. It's from Food & Wine's 1993 "Best Of" cookbook. There are a few things in the recipe that date it, such as using walnuts when today we would likely use pine nuts. I will also be open and admit that not only did I not make the Fresh Tomato Sauce, but I didn't even bother typing it into my Living Cookbook when I was transcribing the recipe months ago because I knew I wouldn't ever bother to make it. Lazy. So instead I used some jarred tomato sauce. You should do that too, since there are already so many steps.
Speaking of the steps: the steps make no sense. It has you do one thing, then let it cool while you do another thing that takes three times as long. So instead of baking your spinach and draining it, first get the eggplant cooking and then quickly dry-wilt your spinach on the stovetop (I don't understand the whole casserole-dish thing). Then when you put that in a bowl to cool, you can use the same pan to quickly toast the walnuts (or pine nuts), and then the same pan again to cook the onion. Also very easy. Mix everything in the bowl, add the egg, and by the time the eggplant is done cooking and had a chance to cool off a bit, everything else is ready. Also, I don't know why you need to bother heating up more sauce. There is already enough sauce on it. And if it doesn't have enough sauce, then you probably should cover it with more next time. I didn't add Parmesan or the olives to "garnish" it either, because that just seemed pointless to me.
As is my policy, I'm going to post the recipe as it's written in the cookbook. But I do highly suggest you follow my directions because it's way easier.
Verdict: I thought this was a very tasty rollatini recipe and I enjoyed it. I will probably keep the recipe around and modify it over time.
Spinach-Stuffed Eggplant Rollatini with Fresh Tomato Sauce
The Best of 'Food & Wine': 1993 Collection
This vegetable main dish provides protein in the form of a cheese filing made mostly of part-skim ricotta mixed with a little feta and parmesan. At Cal-A-Vie, it's served with steamed broccoli, a green salad, and a slice of the spa's whole-grain baguette.
3 pounds fresh spinach, stems discarded, or 1 lb frozen leaf spinach, thawed
10 walnut halves
3/4 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 egg plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Two 1 to 1 1/2 lb eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 20 1/4-inch thick slices
Fresh Tomato Sauce (3 cups) (Lauren's Note: Or jarred sauce)
12 brine-cured black olives, pitted and sliced, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Place half of the spinach leaves in a large pot or medium flameproof casserole with 1 cup of water. Cover and cook over high heat until wilted, about 10 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a colander, rinse briefly under cool water and set aside to drain. Repeat with the remaining spinach. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the spinach in small bunches to extract as much liquid as possible (Alternatively, squeeze the thawed frozen spinach). Chop well and set aside in a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, place the walnuts on a small baking sheet. bake for 7-8 minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. Place the bread crumbs on the baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, for 5 minutes, or until dry and lightly browned. Let cool briefly. Finely chop the walnuts and stir into the spinach. Stir in the bread crumbs.
3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 15 minutes.
4. Stir into the spinach mixture. Stir in the ricotta, feta, 2 Tbsp of the Parmesan, 2 Tbsp of the parsley, the basil, pepper, salt, and cumin (the spinach filling can be prepared up to 2 days ahead; cover and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before proceeding).
5. Increase the oven temperature to 450. Stir the egg and egg white into the spinach mixture and set aside. Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets with vegetable oil cooking spray. Spread the eggplant slices on both sheets. Brush lightly with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. Brush again lightly with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, rotate the baking seets and bake the eggplant for 8-10 minutes longer, until browned and soft. Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 375. Spread 1/2 cup of the fresh tomato sauce in a 9x13 inch nonreactive baking pan. Lay a few eggplant slices on a work surface. Place 2 heaping tsp of the spinach mixture at the short end of each piece of eggplant. Roll up from the short end and place the rollatini, seam side down, in rows in the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and spinach stuffing.
7. Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the rollatini. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until heated through. Let rest for 5 minutes (The rollatini can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a 350 degree oven).
8. Meanwhile, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, reheat the remaining 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce over moderately low heat. Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, 2 Tbsp parsley, and the olives over the rollatini. Serve 2 rollatini per person. Pass the warm tomato sauce alongside.