Zucchini and Eggplant Pops (Rollatini)
Move over lasagna! You've just met your match! This dish uses many of the same ingredients but without the heavy carbs and big mess! Thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant are grilled and then stuffed with a luscious cheesy mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano. Looking for a heartier version? Add browned seasoned ground meat. The tomato sauce keeps the rollatini moist and flavourful. Served as skewers or simply plated, these delightful vegetable stuffed spirals make for a deliciously light appetizer, lunch, or dinner.
My Favourite Tomato Sauce
- 5 -6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ hot chili pepper, finely chopped (optional)
- 8 cups tomato passata
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- large spring of fresh basil leaves
- salt to taste
- 2 - 3 medium-size zucchini, washed and trimmed
- 2 medium-size eggplant, washed and trimmed
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 ounces ground veal
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
- 3 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- ½ cup grated mozzarella
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper to taste
Make the tomato sauce:
Pour olive oil into a large pot and place on medium high heat on the stove. Add the minced garlic, oregano, and hot pepper (if using). Stir lightly until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant. Add a little salt.
When the garlic just begins to turn colour, add the passata, pouring away from you as it may splatter. Do not burn the garlic. Add the fresh basil, either whole springs or roughly chopped. Let the mixture simmer for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally.
As the passata reduces about one-third, it will thicken. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Prepare the zucchini and eggplant:
Preheat cast iron grill on the stove or preheat BBQ to 500°F.
Use a knife or preferably a mandolin to cut the zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into ¼" (or thinner) slices. Each zucchini may yield about 7 slices and about 12 slices for each eggplant. Brush each side lightly with olive oil. Lightly salt both sides.
Place slices on the heated grate and cook for a few minutes before flipping to cook on the other side. The zucchini and eggplant should have grill marks and softened slightly. Remove from heat and place flat in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the filling:
(If you would like to keep this dish vegetarian, omit this step.) In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the shallots and stir until translucent. Add the garlic and the ground meats. Use a wooden spoon to break up clumps. Let cook for about 15 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink and has caramelized lightly. Spoon into a bowl and let cool.
In a large bowl, add the ricotta and use a fork to break it up lightly.
Add in the rest of the ingredients, including the meat mixture and use a fork to combine well.
Assemble the dish:
Preheat the oven 350°F.
In a 9"X13" baking dish, spoon about 2 - 3 cups of the cooked tomato sauce. Spread to cover the bottom. Set aside.
Prepare an assembly line to fill the zucchini and eggplant slices. With the slices laying flat in a single layer on a baking sheet, spoon about 2 tbsp of mixture on the surface of each slice and spread along the length. Don't worry about coming too close to the edges. Leave about 1" empty at one of the ends. Start from the end that has the filling, roll up the slice and place it seam-side down in the baking pan.
Complete the process with each slice and arrange them neatly in the baking pan.
Spoon a little extra sauce on each rolled slice. Sprinkle with a little grated mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano. Cover and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly hot. If you like, remove the cover for a few minutes.
To serve, let rest for about 15 minutes. Then, slide 2 or 3 rollatini on a skewer and arrange on a platter with sauce. Sprinkle a little more cheese.
Otherwise, place a few rollatini on a plate and spoon some sauce over them. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If there are any leftovers, here are a few ideas:
- slide a few of the rollatini in a toasted baguette with a few slices of prosciutto! Add fresh basil leaves and you have an incredible panino.
- slice up the rollatini and bake as a topping on pizza.
- rough chop the rollatini and add to pasta (with a little added pasta water and olive oil).