Recipes

eggplant involtini

It makes no sense at all, but for most of this past winter, I craved eggplant parmesan. I tried to tell myself that we were half a year to eggplant season and would I prefer some… cabbage or turnip parmesan instead? (I would not.) I made it a few times. I ordered it in a few others. I finally got it out of my system and then in the past month I’ve seen Reel after TikTok for eggplant involtini and the magical combination of silky eggplant, tomato sauce, and sharp, melty cheese’s hold over me has returned. At least this time my craving has seasonal compliance.


sliced eggplant planks
ready to grill
grilled eggplant planks

I’ve always struggled a bit with eggplant parmesan as a recipe, however. There’s so much work involved — flour, egg, breadcrumbs, frying — just to bury the whole thing in sauce and cheese, eradicating that hard-won crisp. The quick-to-sog breading becomes additional heaviness in a dish that needs no help with it.

ready to roll
rolled
nestled in

But involtini — which translates as rolls, and is sometimes called eggplant rollatini — is really summerweight eggplant parmesan. It’s absolutely fuss-free and weeknight-friendly. You cut two big eggplants into planks, either grill or roast them until browned. Make an easy mixture of three types of cheese, put a dollop in each, roll it up and cook it in a homemade (my recipe is a cinch) or storebought (no judgment!) sauce. For extra decadence, you could finish it with mozzarella and parm on top, to melt into a cheesy lasagna-like broiled cap, but I left it off and it was exactly the level of decadence I craved. So I made it again the week after, then the week after that. I hope you find it just as repetition-worthy.

baked

75 Days! Until Smitten Kitchen Keepers comes out. It’s 5 years in the making and I cannot wait to share it with you at last. Next week, I’ll announce most of the book tour dates and locations (eee!) and more. We are also working on a preorder bonus that should be really fun. If you’re excited about the book, I hope you’ll consider preordering so it can arrive at your doorstep the day it comes out. Want to learn more? Here’s a little interview I did with Library Journal about the book (which they gave a starred review). Eater just put Smitten Kitchen Keepers on the Top 10 Fall 2022 Cookbooks list, along with 9 others I cannot wait to get my hands on. It’s getting so real!

A Back-To-School Side Project: A tremendous amount of teachers don’t get the funding they need to set their classrooms up for success in the U.S. (and, I’m learning, elsewhere). Most will end up paying out of their own pockets to buy educational materials, which feels all wrong. I asked teachers to send me their wishlists so I could share as many as possible to a wider audience that might be able to help clear them. Help out if you feel you’re able; I’ll keep this list up until the end of September. [SK Teacher Wish Lists] Note: When you check out, make sure you have deselected your usual shipping address and selected instead the name/town you do not recognize (i.e. the teacher’s information) that says “Full address hidden for privacy.”

Previously

6 months ago: Castle Breakfast
1 year ago: Baked Farro with Summer Vegetables
2 years ago: Shaved Fennel and Crushed Olive Salad and Corn Coconut Soup
3 years ago: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies
4 years ago: Foolproof Cacio e Pepe
5 years ago: Cheesecake Bars with All The Berries and Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime, and Cotija
6 years ago: Eggplant Parmesan Melts and Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins
7 years ago: Angel Hair Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce, Crispy Peach Cobbler, and Corn Chowder Salad
8 years ago: Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles and Corn Cheddar and Scallion Strata
9 years ago: Almond-Crisped Peaches, Key Lime Popsicles and Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
10 years ago: Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes, Leek, Chard, and Corn Flatbread and Vanilla Custards with Roasted Blueberries
11 years ago: Hazelnut Plum-Crumb Tart, Zucchini Fritters, and Naked Tomato Sauce
12 years ago: Eggplant Salad Toasts and Peach Shortbread
13 years ago: Griled Eggplant and Olive Pizza and Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
14 years ago: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs and Dimply Plum Cake
15 years ago: Double Chocolate Torte and Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes
16 years ago: Moules Frites and 44-Clove Garlic Soup

eggplant involtini

Eggplant Involtini

From Alexandra Stafford — who I hope you follow, as you will be so inspired, too — I ended up adding lemon zest to the filling and finishing the dish with lemon juice. I absolutely love it here but if you’re not into lemon, you can skip it. If you don’t want make the sauce, you can use 3 cups prepared sauce instead. I bake the eggplant in 2 cups, and use the last 1 cup for serving.

  • 2 medium eggplants [1 pound each or 2 pounds total)
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1 28-ounce canned whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 4 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • Finely grated zest and juice from half a lemon
  • Fresh basil leaves, for serving

Prepare the eggplant: If roasting your eggplant, heat your oven to 425°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper if roasting the eggplant, or for general ease if grilling. Cut tops off eggplant and cut into generous 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange in one layer on baking sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Flip slices and repeat on the second side.

To roast: Transfer to oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes on the first side, then flip each slice and roast for another 8 to 10 on the second, until browned on each side.

To grill: Grill over robust heat until dark marks appear on each side, about 8 minutes for the first side and 5 minutes for the second.

For both methods: Set eggplant aside to cool. If your oven isn’t already heated to 425, do so now.

While eggplant cools, make the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 11- to 12-inch pot over medium, add minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch or three of red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. Cook for one minute. Add tomatoes (it will splatter, be careful) and stir. Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While it simmers, assemble your eggplant rolls.

When the sauce is done, taste and add more seasoning, as needed. If you’d like it smoother, you can blend to your desired consistency. This yields 3 cups sauce. Before assembling, ladle out 1 cup sauce and set it aside for serving. If your pan you made the sauce in is ovenproof, you’re good to go. If it’s not, transfer all but 1 cup reserved sauce to a 2-quart baking dish.

Assemble the involtini: In a bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, lemon zest, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon at the end of each full-sized slice of cooked eggplant, a little less on small ones, using all of the filling, Roll into a cigar. Place each roll in prepared sauce, seam side down.

Bake: Brush tops of eggplant rolls lightly with olive oil and bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges and browned on top. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and scatter with basil leaves before serving. Serve hot, with reserved sauce and additional grated parmesan cheese, if desired, on the side.

Serve with: Garlic bread, perhaps? Or spaghetti, if you have kids or kids-at-heart.

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92 comments on eggplant involtini

  1. Barbara

    I love love involtini! I have made it with zucchini and eggplant. It’s amazing! I’ve also added cooked spinach to the filling!

  2. Kato

    I love involtini! I make a recipe by nigella lawson, with a filling of couscous, mixed with chopped pistachio, feta, oregano and cinnamon. They are very good to play around with types of filling I think

  3. T

    FWIW, I’ve been making a highly simplified weeknight-level eggplant parm for years. Slice the eggplant into planks, do the flour-egg-breadcrumb thing, then roast on a parchment lined sheet at 425 for 7-8 minutes. Flip, spread a big spoonful of tomato sauce on top of each plank (think like spreading sauce on pizza dough) then top w/ a slice of mozzarella and return to the oven for another 7-8 minutes. Not anywhere close to the real deal, but at least you do keep the lovely crisp on the eggplant. Cannot wait to try this, it looks fantastic.

  4. Deanna

    Lately I’ve been making the Ottolenghi Indian inspired involtini with coconut lentil sauce, but this is an excellent reminder to make the classic!

  5. LMD

    The first place I heard about Ali Stafford was here, when you talked about your sheet pan sandwiches and Bread Toast Crumbs. I got her cookbook one week before the libraries in our area shut down for COVID-19, and, months later when I still had the book, I had to buy my own copy; it simply would not do for me to just return the book to the library and not have it at home.
    Two and a half years later, her blog and yours are the ones I check first for a recipe. Apart from my mom and grandmother, I feel like you and she are my main cooking teachers. :)

  6. Alex

    This sounds…incredible? I love eggplant but never make EP because it’s so much work and when I’m looking to have it with pasta I usually make a ratatouille-type sauce but this seems to come pretty close to a eggplant parm or stuffed-shell feel without being nearly so much work.

  7. Jess

    This was what I craved and ordered out during my first pregnancy. It was the last meal I ate before labor! I haven’t had it since the restaurant in question went out of business. I thought it would be hard to make. Now I am intrigued! I regularly make regular eggplant parmesan which is a real pain so…. hmmmmmm… thank you!

  8. Leslie B.

    Ali Stafford’s involtini is one of the easiest, most delicious dishes in her extensive repertoire. So glad you two appreciate and acknowledge one another. Her no-knead bread recipes are stellar, as her book Bread, Toast, Crumbs illustrates. How lucky we are to you both! Thanks.

  9. VMS

    So there is no need to soak the eggplant slices in salted water first? I thought this is always needed to reduce any bitterness. Would love to skip this step so I can squeeze this dish in on a weekday night.

    1. Leslie B.

      No salting or soaking needed! I’ve even used the long skinny Japanese eggplant for this recipe with great success. Enjoy the quick and easy method! And it freezes well, too!

  10. Erika

    Based on the pics, shouldn’t the directions specify to cut eggplant lengthwise, not in the more usual rounds? Can’t wait to try it this! Ratatouille is my usual September go-to for eggplant, but I’m going to make this instead this weekend. Thanks!

  11. nancy

    I’ve been making Ali’s recipe for years with a few additions. I cut the size of canned tomatoes by half & add some fresh Campari tomatoes, cut side down, nestled in between the “rolls” of eggplant. This offers a much richer flavor. I also add some Pecorino Romano & basil or spinach to the ricotta filling. Quick and easy to make. This dish is a real keeper!!!

  12. Lisa

    Deb

    I made this last evening and was amazed at how the flavors all blended so perfectly; even my very picky noodle girl, tried it and didn’t wince!! Also,which chicken soup recipe did you refer to that “Jacob came home from school asking if you were having chicken noodle soup for dinner””? Thanks so much, pre ordered your book, cant wait!!!

      1. Lisa

        Deb

        I wish I could find it, but in one of your recent writings, you referred back to Jacob loving chicken noodle soup so much that you said he came home from school one day and asked if we were having chicken noodle soup tonight! That’s the recipe I am looking for,dont know which of your chicken soups is Jacob’s favorite! Thanks so much, cant wait for your new book! Are you going to do more videos this season? Lisa

        1. deb

          I’m so sorry — it’s going to click for me sometime at 4am, I’m sure. Jacob loves the Grandma-Style Chicken Noodle Soup in Smitten Kitchen Every Day and there’s also a newer one coming in Smitten Kitchen Keepers (out soon), a Ginger-Garlic Chicken Noodle Soup that became an instant favorite. It’s quick to make so we were making it a lot over the early lockdowns, and since. I feel like it must have been that one!

      2. Deborah Vieira Biggs

        Just delicious and happy-making. Way easier than my other eggplant recipes. Added to my shortlist and eager to make again! Thanks so much!!

  13. Lucy Lehman

    Thanks for the recipe. This is how I’ve made it traditionally, and the eggplant grilled makes the dish far less greasy than when it’s fried in olive oil. I do want to add that you have to make sure that all those grilled slices are tender. To do this, I often have to brush more olive oil on them in the oven.

    Also, Deb, Any eggplant dish is SO MUCH BETTER if you drain the slices before using. So, slice eggplant (or dice for use in stews etc.) place in colander, sprinkle with kosher salt, place a plate underneath to catch the drippings, and let it sweat for at least an hour.
    Then cook. The good news is that you do NOT have to rinse the slices before use in any recipe.

  14. If the kind of direct giving to teachers Deb mentioned appeals to you and you want to do it year round, check out Donors Choose! They’re a 501(c)(3) charity where you can give money to specific teacher to support purchasing materials for their classrooms. You can set up regular monthly donations and sort classrooms by location, type of project, etc.

  15. Gina Moore

    This sounds so freaking good and god I can’t wait for your cookbook to arrive. Preordered immediately the first time you posted about it. Confession- I have all my favorite blogs saved and I click yours everyday hoping a new recipe is posted (even though I know your posting schedule I still click!! Sometimes just do the surprise me so I have something to read from you). Last night was our anniversary so I missed this one and just got so excited! Seriously love you so much and been reading since before 2010! Xoxo

  16. Jane

    Thank you so much for sharing teacher wish lists! I plan to share this post on my social media to help them reach an even wider audience <3

  17. Emily

    Can you make this ahead? I was going to grill the eggplant and get the whole thing prepped and then put the sauce on and bake it the next day – will that work or is it materially better to make it all on the same day?

  18. Becki

    I made this tonight, and it was so good! My husband said we should make this again (high praise, esp considering I got him to help with assembly). I really took many liberties with your recipe, because it was the idea of filled rolled-up slices of eggplant plunked into a fresh tomato sauce that got my attention. We had a chunk of smoked mozzarella that needed a purpose, so that became the filling. I made sauce with tomatoes, parsley and basil that I grew in my garden (pats herself on the back) which was so satisfying. Midway through baking, we sprinkled everything with grated Parmesan. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  19. MadeleineC

    There is a very good Jamie Oliver eggplant parmesan recipe that omits the breading and frying – you just brush the planks lightly with oil and grill or roast them before layering them with the cheese and sauce. It can be found on the NYT Cooking site, or on Jamie Oliver’s site (he calls it Aubergine Parmigiana). I like it better than the traditional version for exactly the reason Deb says – it’s less heavy, and you avoid the mess of frying, too.

    1. Coset

      And I made it with firm tofu I crumbled (plus a whole lot of salt, pepper, and garlic powder) instead of the cheese. It was delicious! That said, tofu in particular is a bit textured, it didn’t work as well for my planks that were a bit too thin, so if you’re going to substitute, be careful there.

      (Dear dairy-eaters: no, it’s not the same. But if you need it, knowing these substitutes work because someone already took the risk is lovely)

  20. Barbara L Lee

    Good Morning ! I tried something very similar but with zuchinni . Stuffing was the same. Sadly once baked I noticed that the filling had oozed out, bummer. Wondering if the eggplant rolls will do the same ? Thanks in advance, Barb

  21. Cristina

    Made this yesterday. I agree with the commenters who report that it is week-night friendly and satisfying. I used jarred tomato sauce and it was fine; can’t wait to try it with homemade sauce. Don’t skip the lemon zest and juice–that was definitely a simple but impactful addition!

  22. Sandie Robinson

    All I can say is WOW! This recipe is delicious. I used eggplant from my garden, and made the tomato sauce also with tomatoes from my garden. The lemon zest and juice adds a nice touch of acid. As suggested, I put some mozzarella and parmesan on top before putting it in the oven. Served with Ciabatta I made today with a good Robust Olive Oil to dip the bread in. Also made a green salad.

  23. Kelly Holcomb

    Excellent! Surprisingly easy enough for a weeknight meal, and it was sooo good! My huband and I were practically moaning with pleasure at each bite. The lemon zest and juice are indeed a revelation. I never thought a baked “pasta” dish could taste so light and refreshing. It satisfied every craving for pasta without the heavy carbs. Thank you for another great recipe!

  24. Jennifer

    We made this almost as written (without the lemon: I was bored of adding different components by then) and it was fantastic. We did spread out the work by grilling the eggplants (and a ton of peppers: our favorite vendor at the farmer’s market had lovely yellow peppers — hello roasted pepper salad!) the day of the market. They waited patiently in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the rest of the recipe.
    Thank you for another big hit!

  25. Betsy

    I made this last night and it was superb! Used 2 large, sound, purple and white eggplants from the local farm. I roasted the slices in the oven, and some of them got a bit overcooked, in that they fell apart when I tried to stuff them. So some of them were a bit more like quenelles than involuting, but no harm done! We had lots of fresh summer tomatoes on hand, so I made a quickie fresh sauce, cooking down some quartered tomatoes until they were just soft enough to put through the food mill, then following the sauce recipe with garlic, etc. I have to admit I was a little nervous putting the lemon juice on top, as it is not an ingredient I would have thought to introduce to a tomatoey and cheesy eggplant mix–but it was great! Served it over a little bit of linguini, as it’s a saucy dish that needs something to soak up all that marvelous liquid. I will definitely do this one again.

  26. Deb

    Better than I even hoped. I did add some cubed summer squash and sweet red peppers to the sauce. And just stuffed with mozzarella and provolone because that’s what was in my fridge. A definite repeat.

  27. Joan Sams

    Delicious. My husband is a eggplant parm fan,this was my compromise. So good. The sauce recipe was simple and delicious. I will make this again.

  28. Melanie

    This was out of this world!! And I almost used jar sauce but went with the homemade because it really is so easy – and Deb is right – it was worth the extra couple of minutes. Delicious!!

  29. Amy Nelson

    This was delightful. I grilled the eggplant and the flavor felt worth the extra step. Careful not to use too much oil, it really soaks in quickly but you need very little. I even grilled off some chicken I had in the fridge for later.
    The dish itself is so great with the lemon, we ate this up with crusty bread.

  30. Jane

    I’ve been making this recipe for some time now – I have an over abundance of eggplant in my garden. One day I’ll learn not to plant so much! It’s so easy – if you have eggplant (or zucchini), sauce and ricotta you have dinner in well less than an hour. I like to serve it with yellow rice. Interesting that you add mozz to the filling. I haven’t tried that, but will. I’ve always added lemon zest and love it. I just found another variation on the filling – from Suzy Karadsheh of Mediterranean Dish – that adds egg, garlic, oregano, basil and chopped walnuts. That sounds yummy and I will try it next.

  31. Karen L

    Crazy question: Can the grilled eggplant slices be frozen to use over the winter? Our co-op is bursting with local eggplants right now and I’d love to save some to make when it’s cold and dark. (I find that the eggplant available in winter is way more bitter…and not local!)

    1. deb

      I haven’t tried it but I bet you could. I think key will be packing it tightly in a container. I might put some parchment between layers so it doesn’t stick too much.

  32. Rachel

    We made a vegan version of this tonight and it was WONDERFUL. For the filling we used a pack of silken tofu mixed with about a half cup of vegan cheese (parmesan and mozz) and seasoned well with salt/pep/two tablespoons nutritional yeast (and the lemon zest of course!) Highly highly recommend to anyone who is looking to adapt the recipe!

  33. Nicole

    I made this last night, exactly as written. I used Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes for the sauce and it was great. The lemon is absolutely vital – don’t skip it. It gives the flavour so much dimension. I’ve also never roasted eggplant ‘naked’ before (i.e. without breading), and I tried a piece on its own without any filling – it’s delicious that way; especially the bits where the skin gets crispy. I think I’ll do the same thing next time I make traditional eggplant parmesan too.

    1. Carol

      For another “naked” eggplant recipe, try roasting or grilling chunks with peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini with a bit of olive oil and seasonings you like (Italian?). One of my favorite things to do with eggplant.

  34. Sandie Robinson

    I’m making this again tonight. This time I have an over abundance of purple and white eggplant (long and skinny) in my garden. I will use the same ingredients, but will layer it this time like a lasagna. The lemon is imperative. The flavor of the lemon and zest in the ricotta-cheese mixture is delicious. ( The ricotta mixture is also delicious on toast!). I will once again sprinkle the part and mozz on top before baking.

  35. Kay

    I made this tonight and it was so, so delicious! I followed the recipe exactly, except I did all the prep and assembled the rolls during baby’s naptime and put it in the fridge for a few hours then baked at dinnertime! I’m definitely going to make it again, it make so much more sense than eggplant parmesan!

  36. Annie

    I made this last night, and I gotta agree, sometimes you just NEED eggplant… It was divine. Deb, you’re my go to for dinner. Love what you do!

  37. M Olin

    This was delicious! I cheated and used jarred sauce, but it was divine. And the kids (10 and 12) ate it. They would have preferred I removed more skin- but ate all of theirs. My husband and I were delighted and we’ll add to our list.

  38. Regina

    Love this recipe! I feel like it is basically a healthier but just as delicious eggplant parm. My 4 year old lapped it right up. Total comfort food. Thanks Deb!

  39. SarahH

    I made this exactly as it was directed–roasting in the oven- and it was fantastic. It’s embarrasing to think of all the times I attempted to make eggplant parm only to discover that this was the flavor/sensation I was searching for. I’m hitting up the farmers market this weekend in the hope of nabbing the last few eggplants among the pumpkins becasue this seems like a dish made for the freezer.

  40. Rossi

    I’ve read your blog for years now and this is my first time commenting. I just want to say that I really appreciate you putting up the Classroom Wishlist links because this is something I’ve been wanting to do but was a bit confused/overwhelmed on finding legit sources of lists. Thus, it was so nice to come here and see my trusted blogger sourcing this list for me! I hope you continue this practice annually. Thanks for doing this and also for all the yummy recipes!

  41. NdeyeLaura

    I made this with jarred sauce and oven roasted eggplant and it was delicious. Plan on it taking more than an hour total though if using the oven not the grill for the slices. I cranked it up to 475 though while heating the assembled dish and was able to heat for 15min instead of 30, which helped get dinner on the table not too much after our target time.

  42. Innovative! I stay away from eggplant recipes because of the frying, breading, and fussing. I LOVE this technique! I’ve made this two ways now, the first time with the homemade sauce, and the second two times with jarred sauce, which saves time and was great. I followed the recipe exactly, roasting the eggplant in the oven. It is spectacular, fast, gorgeous, and foolproof. I didn’t buy ONE eggplant last summer, now I’m on the fourth in three weeks. I just finished putting it together, I’ll put it in the frig and bake it tonight. My family loves it. My granddaughter took leftovers to school for lunch (high schooler). A+ 100%

  43. Mary

    Deb, have you had or made the Russian/Georgian/Central Asian (?) cousin of this, where it’s not in tomato sauce and the cheese has walnuts, dill, and I think red onion mixed in? We got some in Brighton Beach and I am keen to replicate!

  44. Carly

    Super fantastic recipe that will be repeated. I went a little too hard with the salt on the eggplant, and will try to brush some off in the future.

    As just one person, I often make half recipes. Did that here and fully regretted it. Leftovers were a dream, and I think would probably hold up in the freezer reasonably well.

    Thanks, Deb!

  45. Linda

    Thank you, Deb- this is a winner. I have made this, again and again and again. ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! Full of flavour, so very satisfying, and oh boy, does it ever impress the guests. I serve it with capellini and Italian meatballs. Saucy goodness!!! Add a green salad to get your fresh veggies, and there’s dinner. Better yet, it can all be made in advance and assembled in the casserole, refrigerated, and heated up for dinner the next day. Love it.

  46. AAS

    Delicious recipe! Any thoughts on how best to double it? One option is to bake two pans/trays of it. Any idea whether double-stacking them in the same pan could also work?

  47. Carol

    Does it freeze well? There are only 2 of us, and a whole pan of this, ( my eggplants made 20 rolls!) while absolutely delicious, would be too much three days in a row! Would love to save it for later in the winter.

  48. MICHELLE STEIN

    Wow! This was spectacular. Easy and quite delicious. I had some eggplant smallish pieces and took the liberty of sautéing them with a diced 1/2 onion and adding to the sauce. The lemon was just a terrific addition. Thank you, Deb!