Eggplant Canneloni

 

Eggplant Cannelloni by Toni Curcio

Serves 4-6 people

 

This delicious dish comes straight out of my Mum’s recipe repertoire. It is a simple Italian vegetarian dish that uses eggplants instead of traditional cannelloni pasta shells filled with ricotta and spinach. She also tops them with passata sauce.

We often eat Mum’s Eggplant Cannelloni as a main dish with a mixed salad. More often than not there are leftovers so we eat them as a snack or a starter for dinner the next day.

The dish is a little time consuming but definitely worth it. Get started on it in the morning if you plan to serve it for dinner.

I hope you try it, and if you do leave a comment to let me know how you go and I’ll show Mum!

JC Xx

 

Eggplant and Filling

4 eggplants of similar size (medium to large)

2 heaped tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped finely

Olive oil for brushing

500g ricotta*

2 bunches fresh spinach, steamed and drained*

1 egg

1 cup of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

Good quality salt to taste

Freshly cracked pepper

 

Passata 

Olive oil for frying

Fresh basil leaves, handful

1 bottle tomato passata*

1 medium sized carrot, chopped finely

Celery, 1-2 stalks

1/2 medium sized white onion, chopped finely

Good quality salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

 

To serve

A generous handful of fresh basil leaves

Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

 

PREPARING THE EGGPLANTS

 

The first step is to prepare the eggplants. Cut the eggplants into 1 – 1.5cm slices lengthways. Salt both sides, then layer them in a large sized colander

 

Once all the slices have been laid down, place the colander on an oven tray, and place a plate on top of the eggplants in the colander (bottom side down) and a weight on top of them (my Mum uses a salt pig). Leave them for 2 hours to allow the juices to drain into the oven tray

 

After 2 hours, remove the weight, plate and dispose of the liquid

 

Use a clean tea towel to blot dry the eggplants of juice and salt

 

After drying, brush both sides of the eggplant slices very well with olive oil and place them aside

 

Heat a skillet on medium to high heat and begin grilling the eggplant slices (both sides) in batches (this gives them those lovely grill lines), and place them aside on absorbent paper to cool and collect any excess oil

 

Grease a deep dish oven tray with olive oil. This is where you will place the cannelloni once they’ve been filled and rolled

 

FILLING THE EGGPLANTS

 

Fold the ricotta, parsley, egg, cheese, spinach and salt and pepper together. Take care not to beat or mix the the filling – be gentle

 

Once the grilled eggplant slices have cooled down, place 1.5 tbsp of the filling mixture 2cm from the tail end of each slice and carefully roll until you meet the other end of the slice

 

Carefully place each slice seam side down into the oiled deep dish oven tray

 

 

PASSATA SAUCE

 

On low to medium heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and fry the veggies and basil leaves until the onion softens

 

Add the passata to the vegetables and allow the sauce to boil for 10 minutes

 

Add salt and pepper to taste, then spoon the passata over the eggplants, along with about 4-5 knobs of butter around the edges of the tray to avoid burning/sticking. Pre-heat the oven to 200°

 

 

BAKING THE EGGPLANT CANNELLONI

 

Cover the eggplants with a sheet of baking paper then alo-foil

 

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, but check the eggplants at about the 10 minute mark. If there is a lot of liquid, remove the alo-foil and baking paper

 

Once the wateriness has reduced and the eggplants are moist but not dry – they will be ready to serve.

 

Before removing the eggplants, sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then carefully serve. Be gentle when lifting the eggplants out so they don’t open at the seams

 

Serve with a few fresh leaves of basil on the eggplant or on the side of the plate.

 

Buon appetito!

 

 

*Notes:

Ricotta – buy the ricotta from a deli or specialty store. Mum loves Mamma Lucia, Trinacria or La Latteria’s ricotta.

Tomato passata – choose a passata that’s sweet and not acidic like the Cirio brand.

Spinach – wash the spinach properly and once steamed and cooled down, squeeze it properly by hand. Chop the spinach then mix it into the ricotta. It’s important to dry the spinach properly to avoid the mix becoming watery. 2 bunches might seem like a lot but once steamed, reduces to one or two cups worth.