Melanzane Ripieni Di Ricotta E Spinaci Alla Parmigiana...can you say that three times fast? It could be called really good eggplant rolls stuffed with ricotta and spinach and covered in a fresh marinara sauce, but it doesn't sound as interesting.
Last week, we had the opportunity to host my office after-Christmas Party. Trying to figure out what we would make, we pulled out a cookbook called Savor, The Royal Caribbean International Cookbook. Jeff's daughter had given him the cookbook after she had been on their cruise. It was a highlight of all the food served on the Royal Caribbean.
We had made the recipe about 6 months before and figured it would be a nice choice since we had meat lovers as well as vegetarians. So, I'll begin by saying, this is not an easy recipe. It is done in phases and probably took us about 2 hours to get all the pieces of the dish together. Though it takes time, it is TOTALLY worth it. The eggplant adds a wonderfully, soft texture to the ricotta and spinach filling. The fresh marinara sauce and herbed oil finished the dish. It is a perfect blend of vegetables and cheese. When the vegetables are fresh from the garden, it's even better. It was the hit of the evening and my co-workers have been waiting for me to post the recipe.
So, here it is Tammi and Melinda...enjoy!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For white sauce, in a small stockpot, melt butter over medium heat; gradually add flour a spoonful at a time to create a roux. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not brown. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil and stir consistently to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper.
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 pound baby spinach, wilted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small saute pan over medium heat, saute onions for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add ricotta, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Combine with white sauce and Parmesan cheese.
In a saute pan over medium heat, place spinach and pan-fry for 5 minutes. Season and squeeze all water out of them. Add to ricotta mixture. Mix well and let cool.
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon of chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For marinara, in a small saucepan over medium heat, warm oil and saute onion and garlic for 4 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.
2 medium size eggplants, skinned and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
Toss eggplant slices in flour. Shake well to remove excess flour. In a frying pan over high heat, warm oil and fry eggplants, 1 minute on each side, Set aside on a plate with a layer of absorbent paper.
On a slightly greased sheet pan, lay eggplant slices and fill with ricotta mixture. Roll and top with some marinara sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 10 minutes.
1/4 bunch of fresh basil
1/4 bunch of parsley
1/4 bunch of chives
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
To prepare herbed oil, blanch herbs in a pan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain and refresh in iced water. Pat dry with paper and transfer to a blender. Add oil and puree until smooth. Using a fine sieve or cheesecloth, strain into a small bowl. Cover and set aside.
To serve, place a couple spoonfuls of marinara in the center of each warmed plate. Top with 2 eggplant rolls and garnish with parmesan shavings. Finish with herbed oil drizzles.
NOTE: I listed the ingredients in the easiest order for making this dish. We didn't have fresh tomatoes (which are hard to find in January), we used a large can of diced tomatoes. In the summer, we make it with eggplant, tomatoes and herbs from our garden. When we fried the eggplant, we used more olive oil than suggested (we used 2 tablespoons of oil every time we sauteed a new pan of eggplant) and we cooked the eggplant 2-3 minutes on each side. We placed them between absorbent paper towels and then used a second round of towels to absorb the olive oil.