Filled with classic Italian flavors, this Eggplant Rollatini is a simple and satisfying vegetarian dish that everyone falls in love with. Tender eggplant slices are rolled around a luscious ricotta filling then baked in a flavourful marinara sauce until melty and bubbly. Best of all, this low-carb recipe requires no breading and no frying!
Plump and gorgeous eggplants are now in season and plentiful at the Farmer’s market. This makes me extremely happy because I adore just about any eggplant dish and this simple eggplant rollatini is one of my absolute favorite.
Soft and tender eggplant slices are rolled up around a cheesy mixture that is made by combining creamy ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, fresh herbs, and one egg to bind it all together. The eggplant bundles are then baked in a simple tomato sauce until tender, saucy, melty, and slightly charred.
- Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- What Is The Difference Between Eggplant Rollatini And Eggplant Parmesan?
- Frying Eggplant Vs Baking Or Grilling
- Recipe Ingredients And Notes
- Recipe Variations
- How To Cut Eggplant For Rollatini
- How To Make Eggplant Rollatini
- Helpful Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Serving Suggestions
- Storage Suggestions
- More Italian-Style Recipes To Love
- Eggplant Rollatini
Much like my zucchini involtini, these silky, cheesy eggplant rolls are an absolute delight to eat. Serve the delicious bundles as a light meal with crusty bread and a salad, or as part of a summery spread. Buonissimo!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy to make but looks impressive. This recipe cuts some corners to save time and effort but the end result is just as gorgeous and delicious!
- Cheesy with loads flavor. With a mix of 3 cheeses, loads of basil, and a rich tomato sauce, this eggplant rollantini is super cheesy and flavorful.
- Make ahead. You can prepare and assemble the dish 1 to 2 hours ahead and up to overnight, then bake.
- Leftovers are divine. The eggplant rolls reheat beautifully which means delicious lunches the next day! And in our home, we’ve been known to have the leftovers straight from the fridge like pizza – yum!
- Gluten-free. This low carb dish has all the delicious flavors of an Italian pasta dish, without any pasta!
What Is The Difference Between Eggplant Rollatini And Eggplant Parmesan?
Let me start by saying both dishes are utterly delicious and I would have a really hard time choosing a favorite.
Eggplant rollatini is an old-school Italian-American dish made of slices of eggplant wrapped around a filling. Variations for the fillings are endless, but a cheese-based is the most popular. In Italy, eggplant rollatini is called Involtini di Melanzane.
Though Eggplant Parmesan calls for similar ingredients as involtini di melanzane, the eggplant slices are not rolled with a filling. Instead, they are layered in a casserole dish, much like a lasagna.
Frying Eggplant Vs Baking Or Grilling
Most traditional recipes for involtini di melanzana (eggplant rollatini) call for frying the eggplant slices in copious amounts of oil. But to me, this makes the dish too oily and rich, not to mention extremely tedious to make.
I prefer to brush them with olive oil then bake or grill them which gets them just as velvety soft. This results in a dish that is still rich and satisfying without being stodgy.
Recipe Ingredients And Notes
With few ingredients, and easy to put together, I have no doubt this will become one of your favorite eggplant recipes. Here’s an overview of the ingredients you will need:
- Eggplant – For this recipe, you will need 2 large globe eggplants or 3 medium eggplants. Smaller eggplants have less seeds and are not as bitter but you do want the eggplants to be large enough to wrap around the filling. You should have 7-8 slices per eggplant.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – You will need it for brushing the eggplant slices to encourage browning and help them soften when cooked.
- Ricotta cheese – For the creamiest, cheesiest filling we are using whole milk ricotta cheese. You can use skim-milk ricotta, if you wish.
- Marinara sauce – I highly recommend this quick and easy homemade marinara sauce, but a good quality marinara such as Rao’s, would also be great.
- Parmesan – For salty, savory flavor. Here it goes in the ricotta mixture, and gets sprinkled over the rollatini for extra flavor. Pecorino Romano would also be great.
- Egg – One egg is added to the ricotta mixture to help give it structure.
- Mozzarella cheese – For some gooey melty factor you need a little bit of mozzarella cheese. We don’t go overboard, just a handful in the mixture and a little to sprinkle over top.
- Basil – I like to add a lot of chopped fresh basil to the the ricotta filling. It adds a lot of bright flavour so don’t leave it out. You can use parsley in a pinch, or a mix of both but basil really perfumes the dish beautifully.
- Red pepper flakes – Optional, but great in the cheese mixture if you like a little heat.
- Make vegan. The eggplant rolls can be filled with just about any mixture you’d like which means you can easily make this a vegan eggplant rollatini. Omit the egg and use a vegan ricotta such as a tofu ricotta and some nutritional yeast to make it cheesier. Consider adding some crushed pistachio or pine nuts and/or raisins for more flavor.
- Use zucchini instead of eggplant. If you have an abundance of zucchini in your garden, make zucchini involtini! Basically the exact same recipe but made with slices of zucchini instead.
- Add ground meat or sausage to the meat sauce. Make it a heartier dish by adding some sautéed ground meat or Italian sausage to the meat sauce.
- Add spinach to the filling. For a little more nutrition, add fresh or frozen spinach to the filling. Make sure to thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze out all the excess moisture. Fresh spinach can be chopped small and added without cooking first.
How To Cut Eggplant For Rollatini
As I mentioned above, this eggplant rollatini recipe is very similar to my zucchini involtini. I love them both equally but if there is one thing that makes me choose eggplant over zucchini, is that eggplant is much easier to slice.
For this recipe, you want to cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slabs. Eggplants are quite soft and easy to cut with a sharp knife. Try and choose eggplants that aren’t too curvy so they are easier to cut.
You could use a mandolin if you wish, but I promise using a knife is a breeze.
Here’s how to cut eggplant for rollatini:
- Trim both ends off the eggplant.
- Hold the eggplant so it is standing. Then use your knife to eyeball an approximate 1/4-inch thickness, and slice down.
How To Make Eggplant Rollatini
Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I usually need two) lined with parchment paper. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (I only season one side).
Bake the eggplant at 425ºF rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile make the ricotta filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, basil, salt, and pepper.
Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish (9×13-inch or 8×11-inch will work).
Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on one end of a slice of eggplant. Roll to seal it and place it seam side down in the prepared dish. Repeat until you use up all the remaining eggplant slices and ricotta mixture.
Top the eggplant rolls with the remaining cup of marinara sauce and sprinkle with a little more mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
*Find the detailed measurements and instructions in the recipe card below.
Slice the eggplant 1/4-inch thick. You want thin slices of eggplant but not too thin they will fall apart when cooked. I find 1/4-inch thickness this to be the perfect thickness.
Be generous with the olive oil. Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge so you have to brush it with quite a bit of oil before baking it. If you use too little oil, the eggplant will not soften enough, or be tender enough, for rolling.
Let the baked eggplant slices cool on the sheet pan. Once baked, leave them on the sheet pan to cool. The residual heat will continue to soften them as they sit and cool.
If possible, try not to use pre-grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Pre-grated cheese does not taste as flavourful as freshly grated. In addition, pre-grated cheese contains preservatives that prevents them from melting.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have access to an outdoor grill, go ahead and use it. The eggplant will develop a smoky-sweetness that makes the dish taste even better! You can find instructions for the grilling method in the recipe notes.
No, for this baked eggplant rollatini recipe we do not slat the eggplant. It is true that salting eggplant draws out moisture which may be essential for some dishes. For this dish, I do not find it makes much difference at all so I am happy to eliminate this very fastidious step. Salting eggplant is also said to help tone down their natural bitterness. Nowadays, eggplant is bred to be more mild in flavour and essentially bitter-less so it is no longer necessary to salt them for this reason.
Yes, you can bake them up to one day ahead. Place them in an airtight container with parchment paper between each layer so they don’t stick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Yes, in fact this is one of my favorite eggplant recipes to freeze. See instructions below in “storage suggestions”.
These eggplant rollatini are great as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a vegetarian main course with this delicious Italian salad on the side. Recently, we had it with corn on the cob and it was a fabulous, filling meal.
As a side dish, the eggplant bundles are wonderful with any roasted or grilled meat.
- To store: Leftover rollatini will keep well in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge.
- To freeze: I prefer to freeze the rollatini before they are baked. Assemble the rollatini in the baking dish then cover tightly with plastic wrap followed by two layers of foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. For best results, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
- To make ahead: Assemble the rollatini in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Reheating: Preheat oven to 350ºF and place the rollatini in an oven-safe dish. Cover with foil. Bake until they’re warmed through, about 15 minutes.
More Italian-Style Recipes To Love
If you give this Eggplant Rollatini recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
For The Rollatini
- 2 large eggplants (approx 1 1/4 pound each) sliced into ¼”-thick planks
- 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/3 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus a few more leaves for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 2 cups homemade tomato sauce or jarred Marinara sauce, divided
- 8-10 fresh basil leaves, optional for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on one or two large baking sheets (I usually need two) lined with parchment paper. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with a few pinches of salt and few cracks of fresh black pepper (I only season one side).
- Bake the eggplant, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in sheet pan.
- Meanwhile, make the ricotta filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella , 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using.
- Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish (9×13-inch or 8×11-inch will work).
- Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on one end of a slice of eggplant. Roll to seal it and place it seam side down in the prepared dish. Repeat until you use up all the remaining eggplant slices and ricotta mixture.
- Top the eggplant rolls evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1 cup marinara sauce, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.
- Bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
- Slice the eggplant 1/4-inch thick. You want thin slices of eggplant but not too thin they will fall apart when cooked. I find 1/4-inch thickness this to be the perfect thickness.
- Be generous with the olive oil. Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge so you have to brush it with quite a bit of oil before baking it. If you use too little oil, the eggplant will not soften enough, or be tender enough, for rolling.
- Let the baked eggplant slices cool on the sheet pan. Once baked, leave them on the sheet pan to cool. The residual heat will continue to soften them as they sit and cool.
- To store: Leftover rollatini will keep well in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge.