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.
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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