One Succoth, quite a number of years ago, I convinced my aunt, Rochie, to let me be in charge of one meal from beginning to end. Now this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but believe me, for my aunt, who doesn’t let anyone in her kitchen, and for my uncle Howie and my cousins, who are the world’s pickiest eaters, it was a very scary proposition. This recipe was my appetizer, and both my aunt and friends who were there for lunch loved it. My uncle and cousins, on the other hand, managed a few bites before declaring “not too bad”. From them, it was high praise.
For dinner tonight I wanted something saucy and meaty, and was originally going to make my pasta bolognaise. However, trying to keep things on the lighter side after eating enough latkes and donuts to celebrate for 4 Chanukah parties, I decided to make this instead.
Almost like a meat lasagna, just healthier and as tasty and delicious
Tip: this is a great recipe to make on Pesach as well.
Tip: I make this rollantini in a breaded version as well. Dredge each piece of eggplant in egg, flour and then breadcrumbs (as you would a schnitzel). Pan fry in a little oil and let cool before stuffing with meat. On occasion, I also add vegetables like mushrooms and peppers to the ground meat for a different twist.
Meat Eggplant Rollantini
1 large eggplant
1 large onion, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh crushed garlic
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 lb ground beef (I use lamb sometimes)
1/2 lb ground turkey
Pinch of black pepper
For the Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced onion
2 tsp. fresh crushed garlic
1 tsp. curry powder
2 cups canned, crushed tomatoes
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar (or 1 packet Splenda)
Trim eggplant. Cut lengthwise into slices about ½ inch thick. Transfer to a colander and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Wipe salt and exuded liquid off eggplant and rub on both sides with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Lay eggplants flat on baking sheet and bake until completely tender, turning once. Set aside.
In a large frying pan over med-high heat, sauté the onions in about 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil. When the onions begin to wilt, add the garlic, cumin, oregano, basil and thyme and mix well. Sauté for another few minutes until the onions are soft, and then add the ground beef and turkey to the onions. With the flat part of the wooden spoon, start mixing and breaking the meat into little chunks, while incorporating the onions and spices into mixture. Cover the pan for about 3 minutes and let cook. Uncover, and again with the wooden spoon break the meat chunks into small pieces; sauté for another minute and remove from flame and let cool.
While the meat is cooling, prepare the tomato sauce. In a small sauce pan on med-high heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil. Add the garlic, and curry to the onions and mix well. Sauté the onions for another 3-4 minutes or until they have softened and then add the crushed tomatoes. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and then add the basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and mix well; bring back to a low simmer. Remove from flame and mix in the sugar.
Assemble the rollantini:
Take the cooled eggplant and lay flat on work space. Using a spoon, place a nice heaping dollop of meat mixture in the center of the eggplant. Fold or roll the eggplant over the meat mixture and then place seam side down onto a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish. Repeat with remainder of the meat and eggplant.
When all the rollantinis have been assembled, pour the tomatoe sauce generously over top, place into hot oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.