Vegan Eggplant Rollatini
September 8, 2011

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini | The Full Helping

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.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini | The Full Helping

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.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini | The Full Helping

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.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini | The Full Helping

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini
Recipe Type: entree
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, nut free
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 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)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Black pepper to taste
  • For my “in a hurry” tomato sauce:
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
Notes
Leftover rolls will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.

 Vegan Eggplant Rollatini | The Full Helping

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.

xo

Images courtesy of Lighter.

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    49 Comments
  1. I made this for thanksgiving and it was a hit – light on the fat and carbs but heavy on flavour and texture! Thank you for sharing! Now I want to try using zucchini as the roll up!

  2. Hey Gena!
    This dish looked & sounded so good, we had to try it!
    One of the very best vegan dishes that I’ve made so far; everyone loved it.
    Great recipe and can’t wait to make it again!!

    Thanks so much~
    Mike

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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. 🙂

    • 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).

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

      • 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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!