“As an Italian, I love revisiting the tastes and smells that I experienced at my grandparents’ house growing up,” says Angelea Bruce, certified specialist in oncology nutrition at Sharp HealthCare.
Her go-to Italian recipe is eggplant rollatini, a warm and cheesy comfort food that pairs eggplant with nutritious ingredients from the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
“While eggplant can seem intimidating to cook, this recipe is the perfect introduction,” says Bruce. “Eggplant is also an excellent low-calorie substitute for lasagna noodles, and the skin is a good source of anthocyanins, a phytonutrient that may reduce heart disease and blood pressure.”
Easy Eggplant Rollatini
Substitute thick-cut zucchini for the eggplant, if desired.
Yields 6 servings
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup carrots, grated or finely diced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
1 large egg
2 medium eggplants
1 (28-ounce) can crushed or stewed tomatoes in puree
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add garlic, carrots and red pepper flakes. Stir until garlic and carrots are soft, but not browned. Add tomatoes, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to medium-high until sauce just begins to boil; then reduce heat to low. Loosely cover pan and simmer while preparing the remaining ingredients.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, basil, oregano, pine nuts and egg. Reserve 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese for later. Set cheese mixture aside.
Turn on broiler and move rack to about 6 inches below the heat source. Cut off the top and a bit of the bottom of each eggplant, but leave on the skin. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips; discard the outer, skin-only (non-flesh) strips. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and lightly spritz each with cooking spray. Lay the eggplant strips on the trays. Lightly brush both sides of each strip with olive oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Broil eggplant strips for 3 minutes on each side or until they are soft and starting to brown.
Turn down oven to 375° F. Spritz a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of the tomato sauce. Spread 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture down the middle of each eggplant strip and roll tightly. Layer the eggplant rolls in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over them and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve with a salad and whole-grain bread, if desired.