After making one uber-successful dish from my Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook, I thought I’d try my hand at something else. Involtini means something wrapped around something else and this recipe wraps eggplant around a flavourful cheese stuffing. Years ago, I had made another Nigella involtini dish with a group of friends, mixing it up with goat cheese, chorizo and pistachios, and oh my, it was good! So when I had a small dinner party coming up, I decided to try my hand at eggplants once again and try the recipe from Feast.
I should point out that I don’t really like eggplant. I never buy it and I steer clear from eggplant dips at parties. It just ain’t my thing. About 15 years ago when I was a vegetarian, I thought I’d try my hand at making a roasted eggplant dish. I ended up throwing it into the garbage. But when we were in Europe this past September, we couch-surfed with a lot of eggplant eaters and hence, we ate a lot of eggplant too. And you know what, it wasn’t awful. So that got me to thinking of that old involtini I had co-baked with a kitchen full of friends many years ago. I decided that I’d try it one more time. Luckily, the recipe turned out fabulously! Even Cornelius who hates eggplant more than me, loved it too. I really think that this dish can turn eggplant haters into dreamy eggplant lovers. It’s just that good.
This recipe isn’t as labour intensive as you might think. The key to my success was taking Nigella’s tip and preparing the eggplant the night before the party. I also decided to make a homemade tomato sauce and made that too before heading to bed. If you want to go an easier route, as Nigella does, use a good bottled tomato sauce instead.
3 large eggplants, cut lengthwise in thin slices
100g feta cheese, crumbled
1 ball fresh mozzarella
25 g parmesan cheese, grated
75 g pinenuts
50 g raisins, soaked in 30 ml of hot water & 30 ml of balsamic vinegar until plump, then drained
4 T olive oil
2 T breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
2 T fresh mint, chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 c tomato sauce
2 balls of fresh mozzarella
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1. Heat a cast iron griddle pan and brush eggplant slices with olive oil on both sides. Cook eggplant on both sides, getting that lovely criss-cross grill pattern on each side. Repeat until all eggplant slices have been cooked. Set aside. Make your favorite tomato sauce, if making from scratch. Put everything in the fridge and go to bed.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all the stuffing ingredients, ending with the egg. Smell the stuffing….doesn’t that smell amazing? Yes, yes it does.
3. Have a rectangular baking dish ready. Take out the eggplant slices and place a spoonful of stuffing on a slice and roll up tightly. Place the bundle of eggplant goodness onto the baking dish. Repeat until the baking dish is filled with eggplant roll-ups. I ended up with 19 rolls. Spoon tomato sauce over top and then chop up the mozzarella and place the soft cheese slices on top. Drizzle with really good olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 25-30 minutes. Out of the oven, let stand for 10 minutes to let things settle before serving.