Eggplant usually divides people into separate camps – love it! hate it! And then there are the fence sitters who will reflexively say they don’t like eggplant, “it’s slimy” or “I don’t like the seeds.” Here’s another one for getting them off the fence.
Gently fried slices of eggplant rolled around ricotta (fresh if you got it) and baked with a simply tomato sauce. With scallions and nutmeg the only addition to the ricotta, you may wonder if it needs embellishment. Fear not; this filling is genius and simplicity at its best.
If you feel the DIY urge, do make your own ricotta, it really is unbelievably easy and tastes out of this world. I will admit it is my new obsession, and being the vain DIYer that I am, I take way too much pleasure in casually setting out a bowl of fresh ricotta seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil and purring with satisfaction at everyone’s devotion. Give it a try. You deserve that kind of adoration!
Eggplant Involtini with Fresh Ricotta and Scallions (from Molto Italiano)
1 large eggplant (long rather than chubby) or 2 small ones, cut in 1/3 inch slices
1/2 cup fresh ricotta (see NOTE below) or drain store bought ricotta until fairly dry
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup basic tomato sauce (I pureed a can of tomatoes and heated it with olive oil and salt)
parsley for garnish
oil for frying
Fry slices of eggplant until lightly browned; drain and set aside. Combine ricotta with egg, scallions and nutmeg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Place 1 tablespoon of filling on edge of eggplant slice and roll up and place seam side down in lightly oiled baking dish. spoon sauce over all rolls and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until cheese melts. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley.
Fresh Ricotta Cheese
I have tried a couple of different fresh ricotta versions, and the one that works the best is Half and Half and lemon juice. It produces the the creamiest ricotta with just a hint of lemon. I love it! That said, I have also used whole milk and been pretty happy with the results as well. Here are the basics.
1/2 gallon half and half (or whole milk)
1/2 cup lemon juice
You will need a candy thermometer, cheesecloth, and a metal strainer, preferably one that stands on its own. Heat the half and half or milk over medium high heat with the thermometer in the liquid and attached to the side. Stir it occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching. When the temperature reaches 180 degrees, remove the pot from the heat, take out the thermometer and gently pour in the lemon juice and stir once or twice. Let the pot sit for 5 minutes and then pour into the strainer lined with cheesecloth and placed over a mixing bowl to catch the draining whey (the liquid that will drain off the curds). If your strainer hast a short stand (or the bowl is wide) you will need to pour off the whey that drains after about 5 minutes; check it ever ten minutes or so after so that the cheese is not resting in the whey that has just drained off. I let the cheese drain for 60 minutes and then it is pretty dry (it will firm up even more once you refrigerate it). You can salt the cheese when putting it away or when you use it. Start with a pinch and mix in well. Fresh ricotta will not keep very long, 3-4 days at the most.