Serves: Makes 4 servings
- 2 large globe eggplants, 1¼ to 1½ pounds each
- Kosher or sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Tomato Sauce:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, minced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ pounds plum (Roma type) tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
- 8 to 12 fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
- Kosher or sea salt
- Ricotta Filling:
- 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (or one 15-oz. container)
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/3 cup minced prosciutto
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for topping
Procedures:Lengthwise slices from a large eggplant become supple when grilled, so you can roll them around a ricotta filling as if you were making cannelloni from pasta squares. Blanketed with a homemade fresh-tomato sauce and baked until bubbly and a little crusty around the edges, the fork-tender bundles of stuffed eggplant are the ultimate Italian comfort food.
Slice off the eggplants' green cap, then cut each eggplant lengthwise into slices about 1⁄3 inch thick. Discard the first and last slices, which are mostly skin. You should get at least 6 large slices from each eggplant. Sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt, then set the slices on a rack and let stand for 30 minutes. Moisture will bead on the surface.
Prepare a moderate charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium (375°F). Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels, then brush on both sides with the olive oil. Place the slices directly over the coals or gas flame and cook, turning once, until they are nicely marked by the grill and pliable, about 3 minutes per side. They do not need to be fully cooked as they will cook further in the oven. Set the slices aside on a tray to cool.
To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and beginning to color, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they soften and collapse into a sauce, about 10 minutes, depending on ripeness.
Remove from the heat, and pass the mixture through a food mill fitted with the fine disk. Return the puree to the skillet over moderate heat. Tear the basil leaves in half and add to the skillet along with the oregano (rubbing it between your fingers as you do), the hot pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and tasty. Set aside.
To make the ricotta filling, put the ricotta, pecorino, prosciutto, parsley, and garlic in a medium bowl. Stir until blended, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose a shallow baking dish large enough to hold all the eggplant rolls snugly in one layer. Spread 1⁄3 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.
Put a generous 2 tablespoons filling on each eggplant slice and spread it evenly. Carefully roll each slice like a jelly roll, and place the rolls, seam side down, in the baking dish. Top with the remaining tomato sauce, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the pecorino evenly over the top. Bake until lightly browned and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.