Eggplant and Pasta Rolls (Involtini di melanzane con spaghetti)

Eggplant and Spaghetti Involtini
Eggplant and Spaghetti Involtini. WestEnd61/Getty Images
    75 mins
Ratings

This dish (sometimes known as "rollatini" in the U.S., a word which does not actually exist in Italy, where they are called "involtini") is quick and easy to prepare, but makes for a beautiful presentation and a satisfying antipastoprimo, or even a vegetarian main dish accompanied by a salad or vegetable side. 

What You'll Need

  • 2 large eggplants, washed and dried
  • Olive oil, for brushing eggplant slices before grilling
  • 4 large, very ripe and flavorful tomatoes (about 600 grams, should give you about 3 cups when diced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound (227 grams) spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • Optional: finely chopped chives, fresh basil leaves, or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

How to Make It

For the eggplants:

Cut off the stem end of the eggplants and then cut the eggplants lengthwise into slices about 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) thick. Lightly brush each side with olive oil and then grill the slices for 2 to 3 minutes per side on a charcoal or gas grill or stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat. Set grilled eggplant slices aside while you make the tomato sauce.

For the sauce:

Cut a small, shallow "X" shape in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife.

Drop the tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water for about 45 to 60 seconds, then remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon or mesh skimmer and drop them into a bowl of ice water to cool. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, drain them well, slip the peels off (they should peel away easily from the X using either your fingers or a paring knife) and finely dice the tomatoes. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil and the minced garlic and shallot in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Saute until softened and lightly golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and basil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cover. Let simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes while you cook the spaghetti.

While sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti just until al dente in a large pot of boiling salted water. When done, drain and return to the pot. Add the tomato sauce (reserving several spoonfuls for garnishing the finished rolls) and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pasta well with the sauce. 

To assemble:

Divide the spaghetti evenly between the eggplant slices, using a fork or your fingers to arrange it into a loop shape. Roll up the eggplant around each pasta bundle (use a toothpick to secure the roll, if necessary). Add a dollop of the reserved tomato sauce to each roll and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.

Optional:

Sprinkle the eggplant rolls with finely chopped chives, fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.