Eggplant Involtini with Pistachios and Currants

Things you should know about me: I didn’t like tomato sauces until a few years ago and cheese and I are waaay too close of friends. Like Liz Lemon close.

I’m not sure what came first last week, a craving for melty cheese or a desire to highlight some of this season’s most delicious ingredients. Suffice it to say I ended up here, with eggplant involtini, and that’s not a bad place to be.

Involtini means “little bundles” in Italian and I only recently discovered their magic. This is an excellent substitute for making a big, heavy, eggplant parmesan in the middle of summer. It’s a perfect serving (or two) without the weight of a traditional parm. Unless you’re like me and you throw tons of mozzarella over the top. Then it’s really not so different, except that it’s prettier.
I wanted to lighten up the flavor profile and had some pistachios that needed to be used up. Typically eggplant involtini calls for pine nuts but you might remember (from way back when) that I don’t use pine nuts often because of a bad case of pine mouth (and their price!). The currants were for a bit of sweetness and texture and the basil ties it all together. Also tomato, basil, eggplant…whattup summer.

Usually I’ll call out a recipe for being simple and I really want to say this is but I think many might disagree. So let me clarify – there is nothing difficult in this recipe but there are a few more steps than the label “simple” would allow.

This is where the practice of Mise en Place comes in handy.

Mise en Place is French for “putting in place” and translates to having an organized, clean, and prepped work space so that when you’re cooking you aren’t also chopping garlic, zesting lemon, and hunting for spices while trying to saute, stir, and prepare things at the same time. By lining up all your ingredients beforehand – fully measured out and prepared- you can just add things as necessary without making yourself crazy.  

Once all the components are prepared this dish comes together in no time! It’s a great dish to share (if you’re into that sort of thing) and just so perfect and seasonal.
Eggplant Involtini with Pistachios and Currants
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce (either store bought or make your own)
  • 1-2 medium sized eggplants
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp pistachios, toasted
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp dried currants (optional, you can leave them off and the dish will still be delicious)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Mozzarella to top (optional, unless you're like me and there's no such thing as "optional" cheese)
Instructions
  1. If you're making your sauce set it aside and let it cool while you prepare the involtini.
  2. Set broiler to high.
  3. Slice your eggplant lengthwise to about ¼ inch thickness. Try to get 8 -10 slices. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Place on an aluminum foil-lined pan and brush olive oil on both sides. Place in broiler and cook 5 minutes on each side but make sure the eggplant doesn't burn or get too browned. After the eggplant is cooked, set aside and let cool.
  4. Place garlic in food processor and process until it's in small pieces. Add panko and toasted pistachios to the garlic and run the machine till you have coarse and well-blended crumbs. Then add the zest, ricotta, and egg and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the currants (if you're using), basil, and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Preheat oven to 375° F
  6. Take a pie or baking dish and pour 1½ cups of sauce into the bottom of the dish.
  7. Take a slice of eggplant and spread 2 heaping tablespoons of the cheese mixture over one side of the eggplant. Roll up the eggplant and place, seam side down, into the sauce. Repeat for remaining eggplant.
  8. When finished rolling up your involtini, pour the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese and (if you're using) some mozzarella slices.
  9. Bake 20-30 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling. Serve hot!