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Involtini di melanzane ripieni di pasta (Eggplant rolls filled with pasta)

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Involtini di melanzane ripieni di pasta (Eggplant rolls filled with pasta)

Rosetta

Here is the second recipe I promised you from my August cooking class menu, the one that uses eggplant from appetizer to dessert. This dish is a clever way to combine eggplant, pasta, and cheese in a beautiful presentation. It was supposed to be in my cookbook, but I already had too many recipes, so you're in luck. The recipe calls for frying the eggplant slices, which is how I had it in Calabria, but for the class I decided to grill them instead, and I've grown to like it better that way. You can also bake the slices, if you prefer. For this dish, I use large globe eggplant. Here is what the slices look like on the grill:

Once they are done you place on each eggplant slice some spaghetti that has been lightly tossed with tomato sauce, and then you top it with a piece of cheese:

Roll the eggplant slice around the pasta and cheese. You now officially have an involtino:

Then you finish with some more tomato sauce and grated cheese, such as ricotta affumicata (ricotta that has been smoked) or grated pecorino.   This is what the involtini look like in the baking dish:

And here they are, ready to eat. Yummy!

Here is the recipe:

INVOLTINI DI MELANZANE RIPIENI DI PASTA

Eggplant rolls filled with pasta, mozzarella and tomato sauce

In Calabria, caciocavallo cheese or provola is typically used in place of mozzarella, for their stronger flavor.  The eggplant can also be grilled as a light alternative to fried.

Serves 8

2 eggplants (1 pound each)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Olive oil for frying

3 cups of fresh tomato sauce

1/2 pound of spaghetti

20 fresh basil leaves, chopped

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino crotonese or ricotta salata

1. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 3/8-inch thick slices. You should get 8 slices from each eggplant. Lightly sprinkle the slices with the salt on both sides and set aside. Heat enough olive oil in a 10-inch skillet to come 1/2 inch up the side of the pan.

2. Pat the eggplant slices on both sides with a paper towel, drying thoroughly.

3. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle, add a few slices of the eggplant and fry until soft and golden on both sides. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the remaining eggplant to the skillet and fry as before. Set aside the cooked eggplant.

4. Prepare the tomato sauce using your favorite recipe.

5. Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook the pasta until al dente, slightly undercooked, as it will continue to cook in the oven.

6. When the pasta is ready, drain, and toss with half of the tomato sauce and half of chopped basil, stirring until the pasta is well coated.

7.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.

8.  Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. On a plate or a cutting board lay flat a slice of the cooked eggplant. Place a few strands of spaghetti on top of the eggplant slice; the strands should drape over the slice on both sides. Add a slice of cheese over the pasta and make a roll of the eggplant slice around the pasta and cheese. Place the roll in the baking dish, making sure each roll sits snugly next to its neighbor. When all the rolls are in the baking dish pour a little of the sauce over them and place another slice of cheese on top of each roll. Dot the top of each roll with a little more sauce, sprinkle the remaining basil, and dust with grated pecorino or grated ricotta salata.

9.  Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese melts and forms a light, golden crust.

10.  Serve carefully with a spatula so that each involtino doesn't unroll.

Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.