Involtini di Melanzane (Eggplant Roll-Ups)

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Serves: 4

Preparation time: 60 min.

There are 100 ways to prepare eggplants, they are elegant, versatile and one of the best-known vegetables in the Mediterranean cuisine. Involtinis can be served as a first course at room temperature or warm as a main dish.

Ingredients:

Eggplants:

  • 2 eggplants, long form, medium sized, about 1 lb (450 g), cut lengthwise into about 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick slices, not too thin as they will shrink
  • olive oil to sauté the eggplants and baste the baking dish

Eggplant Filling:

  • 1/2 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb (225 g) lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg beaten

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 lb (450 g) canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (120 ml) dry white wine
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Garnish:

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) Feta cheese

Preparation:

Tomato Sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions and garlic until golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, wine, the 2 teaspoons of sugar and taste for salt and pepper. Let it simmer over low heat, stirring now and then while you prepare the eggplants.

Eggplants & Filling: Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil. Warm a frying pan and fry slices for about 2 minutes on each side or until they begin to get golden. Add extra oil to the pan if eggplants seem too dry. Set aside on a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a bowl mix the ground lamb or beef, the chopped red pepper, onion, and garlic. Add the Cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, cumin, salt and pepper and the beaten egg. Mix all well.

Make little sausages out of the meat mix. They should be almost as long as the widest part of the eggplant slice. Lay the meat sausage on the widest end of the eggplant slice and start rolling the eggplant slice carefully around the meat. Secure with a toothpick.

Oil a baking dish with olive oil and pour the tomato sauce in it. Arrange the eggplant rolls side by side on the tomato sauce. Cover dish with an aluminum foil and bake it for 40 minutes.

While the eggplants are baking, crumble the feta cheese. At the end of the baking time, sprinkle the feta cheese (you can also use Parmesan cheese) on top of eggplants and put it for another 5 minutes in the oven.

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Remove the toothpicks. Do not serve it piping hot. Involtini di Melanzane tastes best when eaten a bit cooler or, if you like, at room temperature. Serve with a nice crusty bread.

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