These vegan eggplant rollatini are the perfect answer to the question of what to make a mixed crowd of eaters for summer supper. They have all of the flavor and appeal of a traditional Italian pasta feast, but with a few healthy and plant-based swaps: flavorful, roasted eggplant slices in place of pasta or noodles, and a tofu “ricotta” filling that’s both dairy-free and also heavy on the spinach. The result is a meal that can be savored by folks who are vegan, folks who avoid dairy and/or gluten, and folks who simply love fresh summer vegetables and herbs.
I happen to have served this dish to my 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. 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, and it’s especially great to be able to share my food with her.
This dish definitely has some moving parts, but if you stay organized and take care of a few components in advance, you’ll find that it comes together very easily. I’d recommend making the sauce and/or the ricotta a day or two in advance. That way you can simply roast the eggplant slices and then assemble the rolls when you’re ready to serve. If you need to save some extra time, try a commercial marinara sauce in place of the quick option that I offer.
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.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, pressed for 30 minutes or more to release extra moisture
- 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly (I press mine through a fine sieve)
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup or organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Handful of coarsely chopped fresh basil
- Preheat your oven to 400F. 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 with paper towels, and then brush them lightly with the oil. Transfer the eggplant slices to the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until they're tender and browning, flipping the slices once halfway through.
- While eggplant cooks, transfer tofu to a bowl and crumble it with hands. Add the spinach, nutritional yeast, salt, basil, oregano, garlic, and pepper. Mix everything well with hands, crumbling it through your fingers till it resembles a bowl of crumbly ricotta cheese.
- Make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic till fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and sweetener. Heat thoroughly. Toss in basil at the end, and then remove the sauce from heat.
- When eggplant is finished, allow the slices to cool until they can be handled. Transfer them to a a cutting board and add about 3 tbsp of the ricotta mixture to the end of one side. Roll them up completely from that side, and then place them, seam down, in a rectangular or oval baking dish (I used a 7" x 11" dish).
- 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 a fresh salad or other vegetable accompaniments.
When my cousin tasted these rolls, she exclaimed that she’d never have guessed that the tofu “ricotta” wasn’t cheese. I’ll call that a win for vegan dinner–and for this dish. I hope you give it a try soon, especially when summery produce is as its peak! It’s wonderful for sharing with family or friends, or simply for savoring on your own.