Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

by Gena on September 8, 2011

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Thanks for such nice comments on my wedding posts (part one and two). I was especially pleased to hear an outpouring of comments on my closing thoughts about Blue Hill, and other farms like it: a mixed bag of emotions, to be sure, but I’m glad that the loss of animal life still reverberates with so many of you, regardless of the practices that precede it.

I’m here tonight with a recent “dinner with omnis,” which is how I sometimes jestingly refer to evenings when I entertain for non veg*n diners at the Hobbit House. My guest last week was my lovely cousin Kathleen, who happens to be a lifelong D.C. resident. Kathleen and I are only a year apart, and we were very close growing up (especially since I’m siblingless). Now, years and years after my wishing with all my might that I could live closer to my hip and savvy older cousin, I finally do. It’s great to have her nearby.

Cooking for fellow vegans, or fellow food bloggers, tends to be easy: we all eat a lot of the same stuff (kale, yams, beans, quinoa) and we’re all used to filling up on the same kinds of food. When I cook for omnis, I try hard to create meals that are healthy and nutrient dense, but which confer a sense of satisfaction and fullness. I can easily feel sated with a big, nutrient dense salad, but that’s not the norm for many eaters (heck, it’s not the norm for many vegans I know), and I try to build my entertaining meals around beans, grains, and tofu or tempeh, always being sure to feature at least one raw dish or salad, too.

This meal offered balance and heft along with optimum nutrition. The star of the meal were my eggplant rollatini—one of my first vegan dinners as a home cook, and a classic in my home. They’re fancy-sounding, but trust me, they’re also ridiculously easy. And if you whip up some tofu ricotta in advance, they’re also remarkably quick to make. I paired them with a simple green salad with roast baby beets and sugar snap peas (steamed) and a quinoa/whole grain cous cous mix (ideas stolen from Bryanna!) that came together in a pinch in my rice cooker. Ultimately, a meal with multiple components took me no time at all.

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If your mouth is watering, I’ll spare you the wait. Here’s the eggplant rollatini recipe: so decadent and delicious that you’d never guess it was also healthy-as-can-be.

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Vegan Eggplant Rollatini (vegan, gluten free)

Serves 4

2 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 package (16 oz or so) extra firm tofu, pressed for 10 min or more to release extra water
1/2 10 oz. package frozen spinach, drained thoroughly (I press mine through a sieve)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2-1 tsp minced garlic (or garlic powder to taste)
Black pepper to taste

For my "in a hurry" tomato sauce:

1 tbsp fruity olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 28 oz can of fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes (I really like Muir Glen Organic)
2 tbsp organic tomato paste
1 tsp agave nectar
Handful of coarsely chopped fresh basil

1) Place eggplant slices onto baking sheets and sprinkle well with sea salt or kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes; this decreases bitterness and removes excess moisture. Pat the slices dry, and spray them or brush them lightly with coconut or olive oil.

2) Make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic till fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, paste, agave, and heat thoroughly. Toss in basil at the end, and remove from heat.

3) Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Roast eggplant till browning (about 20-30 min) flipping slices halfway through.

4) While eggplant cooks, transfer tofu to a bowl and crumble it with hands. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, and spinach. Mix it well with hands, crumbling through fingers till it resembles a bowl of crumbly ricotta cheese.

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5) When eggplant is finished, transfer slices to a cutting board (wait for them to cool, of course) and add about 3 tbsp of the ricotta mixture to the end of one side. Roll up from that side, and place seam down in a baking dish of choice till you’ve finished all slices.

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6) Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Smother the eggplant rolls with tomato sauce, and bake, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until hot. Serve with sides of choice.

My salad, as mentioned above, was made of baby romaine, roast baby beets, steamed snap peas, and my smoky avocado dressing:

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The quinoa cous cous mix was simply grains, water, salt, pepper, raisins, and a touch of almond milk at the end:

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But it was the burst of Italian flavor in the rollatini that served as the star of the meal. My cousin exclaimed that she’d never have guessed it wasn’t cheese!

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Indeed, these are a great dish to pull the ole, “bet you never would have guessed it was vegan!” trick on people with. They’re a dead ringer for the “real” thing.

Hope you give these guys a try soon—for family, for friends, or just for you.

xo

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

bitt September 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I know a few vegans who hate greens. They are obviously not in it for the health. They are not young 20-somethings either. I know omnivores who would love a kale salad over anything tofu-based. I guess the key is to know your audience!

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Sarah Bligh September 8, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Looks delicious, can’t wait to try it!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table September 8, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Eggplant is all over lately – I couldn’t be happier. Love the idea of that tofu ricotta. I bet you could add some lemon or even olives to it for a nice flavor shot! :)

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Katie September 8, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Looks great! I just made a similar recipe last night with the abundance of zucchini from our garden (instead of the eggplant), and steamed kale (instead of spinach) in the “ricotta”. I’m interested to try it with eggplant! Thanks for the recipe.

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Nikki FYC September 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have such a hard time deciding what to make when I’m cooking for other people. This is getting bookmarked for that next occasion. And for those who avoid soy I bet it would be easy to whip up a creamy cashew filling. They look mouth watering.

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Paula Tiberius September 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for this – I was just wondering how I could do this without tofu. I’ve never cooked with cashews – something involving a food processor I’m guessing?

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Laura Neff September 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Yep, Paula. You’d want to soak the cashews for 1-2 hours first. It’ll help them whip up into a creamy dream in the food processor! :)

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

It could be nice to soak the cashews first :)

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Thanks for the cashew cheese idea!

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Ali (urbanfruitbat) September 8, 2011 at 11:47 pm

These look so yummy G! (I have to tell you from last post, I think that your full name is so beautiful!) I bet that those rolls would also be amazing with smoked tofu in the filling! Especially with the salad dressing on the salad you served it with.

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jenny eats nutella from a spoon September 9, 2011 at 12:32 am

oh dude this looks SO good. will make!

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jenny eats nutella from a spoon September 9, 2011 at 12:48 am

do you think this would work with tempeh too?

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Alice September 9, 2011 at 8:11 am

Ooh I bet it would—maybe for a different take on mousaka?

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Kate (Peacocks & Moonshine) September 9, 2011 at 3:03 am

This recipe looks so elegant and delicious-definitely trying it out this weekend. My boyfriend and I recently decided to go 100% vegan for a month. I am mostly vegan anyway, but he is a happy omnivore (until he watched forks over knives, that is). My challenge is to keep both his eyes and his belly happy. I made a vegan tempeh helper last night from post punk kitchen with vegan and gluten-free peanut butter and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and vegan ice cream for dessert. Needless to say, he didn’t miss a thing. I want to slowly transition to simpler, lighter meals, but for now vegan substitutes are wonderful. Although it’s pretty tough to find good quality vegan substitutes in Italy and when I do they are either a) super expensive, b) full of weird fillers or c) all of the above. Luckily your recipe has two ingredients that I can always find-eggplant and basil :) I am so excited to be back in the states where vegan goodies abound! Thanks again for the recipe and hope you have a great weekend-

K

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Heather September 9, 2011 at 5:56 am

Yum yum yum yum yum. You hit the nail on the head with the mouth salivating thing. A restaurant nearby, Garden Grille, makes a KILLER eggplant rollatini drenched in a heavenly homemade tomato sauce. I can’t wait to re-create YOURS, Gena! (:

Stay lovely,
Heather

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Wendy (Healthy Girl) September 9, 2011 at 7:40 am

Your eggplant rollatini look gorgeous! I’m putting this on my lineup for the next time I have guests over.

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Jen September 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

I love eggplant. My stepdad has Italian roots, and he makes the best eggplant parmesan on the planet. I couldn’t eat it when I was vegan because of the cheese, and I can’t eat it now because I’m gluten-free (the eggplant slices have a breadcrumb coat). This dish reminds me of his eggplant parmesan, but made 20 x healthier! He’s always asking me when I’m going to come over and make dinner, so now I can tell him soon. Very soon. And that I already have a recipe! I wonder if this would hold up well if I made it at home in the afternoon and then brought it over to my mom’s house in the evening.

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles September 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

I’ve been wanting to make eggplant lasagna for awhile but I wasn’t sure what to do about the “cheese” part of things. Can’t wait to try!

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Hoshigaki September 9, 2011 at 9:12 am

Gena,

These recipes are really great. I think my sister would like the eggplant so I’m going to make it for her the next time she comes to Vermont to visit me. I learned this summer, through getting heaps and pounds of tomatoes from my farm share, that I’m highly sensitive (I would say allergic) to raw tomatoes (nightshade sensitivity in general, I’m conjecturing)…so cooking the tomatoes into a sauce would remedy that problem.

The raisins in quinoa look really good. In my favorite health and nutrition book, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, there is a section on the *One Pot Meal* and how cooking things together melds the ingredients and “energies” for better digestibility. Usually I sprinkle raw raisins and other toppings after cooking (nuts, seeds, etc.) but I think I’m going to try to incorporate them into the cooking process and reflect on any improvements in digestion/digestibility. The one exception would be fresh herbs, which I really like to be added fresh on top of cooked foods.
For example, last week I was REALLY into eating oatmeal with fresh basil on top. It was very delicious but, I suppose, not for everyone. It’s also a great way to utilize fresh herbs before they become less and less available as fall nears.

Autumn in rapping at our doors! The air is already beginning to smell like fall in Vermont.

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Brita Hinderliter (WildThrive) September 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

Gena, I hate eggplant. I want to love it, but I hate it. I’ve tried and tried to love it. So, if this recipe makes me even kind of like it, you’re genius! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Eat Hike Sleep Repeat September 9, 2011 at 10:17 am

I’m with you Brita. This is a beautiful looking dish, but, it’s eggplant. With the exception of baba ghanoush, I steer clear of eggplant. Nasty texture!

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Molly September 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

My experience is that eggplant is one of those foods that can be great but has the potential to go badly wrong…I’ve had undercooked eggplant that tasted something akin to eating a sock, but when it’s done right it’s to die for. The key for me is usually to be pretty heavy-handed with the oil to keep it soft.

these look amazing!

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rita September 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

see if you can get it really fresh – preferably straight out of the garden: the texture is much better: I’m with you on this issue, but home-grown, used immediately, is something else altogether

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Linda March 4, 2014 at 3:50 am

Try capsicum / red pepper instead of eggplant. Cut the capsicums into quaters, roast until the skins start to peel, remove the skins then let cool. By that stage they should be ready to roll up.

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats September 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

This looks amazing. I get satiated with a big salad, but it has to be a nice dense one with at least 2, but preferably 3-4 cups of greens as the base. Lately I have noticed myself adding more beans and quinoa than usual too – especially quinoa. It’s been a quinoa almost everyday in some form the last couple of weeks.

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Johanna B September 9, 2011 at 10:45 am

Would you believe I’ve never tasted an eggplant? This must change soon.

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Gena what a great meal!

One of the foods that I am the WORST at cooking is eggplant. I can never get it just right…either too mushy, too rubbery, underdone, overdone, watery, just…a mess! I give you big props on the wraps. And great filling recipe.

Question, you said “1 tbsp fruity olive oil” <–what would you define as a 'fruity' one? Just wondering if you're brand loyal to any in particular.

Have a great weekend!

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Get Skinny, Go Vegan. September 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I MUST bookmark this one. Eggplant dishes are my fave cooked foods. TOTALLY get it about cooking differently for omnis. Just because I drink Kale & Hemp smoothies does NOT mean that I want to present “that” as being “vegan”. People are already freaked out enough about eating plants so I think I kind of have to impress them, a Plant Audition.

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Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY September 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I really want to try this recipe on my boyfriend, but not tell him its vegan and see if he notices. It looks delicious!

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Liz @ Southern Charm September 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Is this real? Haha! It looks to good to be! Can’t wait to try your amazing recipe!

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Tejas September 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

They look so yummy.
I love eggplant so I will try these.

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Ela September 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I love how often we’re on the same page (seriously, I’m brewing a ‘tribute to you’ post)–I just bought an eggplant! I love them, my omni husband doesn’t and he’s gone for a couple days. I’m envisioning something with tomatoes, chickpeas and fresh greens from the garden.

Love what you said about the ease of fixing food for other vegans. I so miss that…

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VeggieGirl September 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Amazing recipe (I never expect anything less from you)!

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baidu September 10, 2011 at 4:58 am

thank you i like it and I love them, my omni husband doesn’t and he’s gone for a couple days.

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Jess @ Jess Go Bananas September 10, 2011 at 11:03 am

You are 100% right that this is very easy to make! I cannot wait to serve this to the omnis in my house and see if I can fool them! muahahaha :)

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Christine (The Raw Project) September 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing! I’m always looking for more creative eggplant uses since I have a hot and cold relationship with it.

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Laura Neff September 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

This looks so delish, Gena!

I wonder if it’s freezeable? And if so, if it would be better to freeze when it’s rolled but not baked the rest of the way, or bake it first and then freeze? Hmm…

Thanks for another winner. :)

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Tiina September 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I’m going to make it part way (assembled) them freeze it. Then I plan on baking it later on probably I’d guess 350 for 30-40 min (if still frozen).

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Di September 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

Wow! Two of my most favorite veggie (eggplant and spinach) in one dish!! This is heavenly!! I eat eggplant almost everyday and sometimes I run out of ideas on how to cook it. Thanks for the recipe!! I love it

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Tiina September 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Thanks Gena, I just bought an eggplant (and actually grew my other one! But it is tiny alas! Still, managed to grow one!) I also harvested and roasted a bunch of tomatoes so when the stars are in better alignment (probably tomorrow as I’m still at the hospital now at 7:23 and taking a little mental break on your site!) I will make this. Love the idea of first roasting the eggplant to soften it up.
Good luck at school my dear. Remember the ability and willingness to work hard is everything in medicine, and you’ve got that to spare. You will be amazing.

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Tiina September 15, 2011 at 7:43 am

I started last night to make this recipe but it got too late and I’m going to assemble today– BUT– this morning snuck some roasted eggplant into a pita pocket and had for breakfast (I like savory breakfasts) wow- YUM!!! This is going to become a new staple for me. What a tasty discovery.

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Abigail August 8, 2012 at 7:51 am

I made this last night and it was delicious! It had been in my “recipes to try” pile for awhile, and I finally got around to making it. As you have said, it is super easy to make. I will definitely be making this over and over again.

Thanks for all the recipes and information you post on your blog! They are a great help to me!

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Christina March 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi Gena!

This recipe is so delicious, and always a hit at my house:) The first time I made it, I used a knife to cut the eggplant…My slices were a little wonky, and then I lost some in the oven:( This time I used my dehydrator to make the slices flexible, and a mandoline….perfect slices (Actually, more than I needed!)…I’m wondering if I made a triple batch, how they would freeze?

Thank you!
Christina

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