I have started thinking about holiday recipes that would be prefect to feed a crowd. I love eggplant, as it is one of those cross-over dishes that doesn’t scream “vegetarian”. Sometimes I feel like these dishes are few and far between, especially when it comes to entertaining. Depending on your guest list, you are more than likely dealing with a wide range of tastes, dietary restrictions, and such. Whenever I entertain, I tend to obsess over the menu (surprise, surprise). Of course I have learned it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but gosh-darn-it, it will not be for lack of trying!
Now, it wouldn’t be fair to present this dish to you without the recipe for an important ingredient—the red sauce. A long time ago, in a far off land, there was a little Irish girl who went to college and would routinely smother her pasta in Prego. Then I married an Italian man with amazing cooks in the family (please don’t tell them about the Prego). My world was changed forever. I swear, I will share soon. It is not fair to live life without this red sauce. Just ask the little Irish girl.
2 medium eggplants
2 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
3 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes
2 c whole-milk ricotta
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
small handful basil, chopped
2 1/2 c prepared red sauce
1/2 c shredded mozzarella or parmesan (or a combination)
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the stems off eggplant, and discard. Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4” strips (or a bit larger, about 8-10 total per eggplant). Arrange slices on a non-stick baking sheet, and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Transfer to oven, and cook 12-15 minutes, until eggplant is just tender. Allow eggplant to cool at room temperature. Leave oven on at 350F.
In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 5-7 minutes, until onion begins to turn golden brown. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add ricotta, salt, pepper, and basil. Stir until well combined.
In a casserole dish, spread 1/2 c red sauce along the bottom. Remove eggplant from baking sheet, and place on a flat work surface. Scoop a few tablespoons of ricotta-spread in the middle of each eggplant. Roll up, and place, seam side down, side by side in the casserole dish (they will fit snugly, in two rows of about 8-10 roll-ups). Pour remaining 2 c red sauce over the top, and sprinkle with mozzarella or parmesan. Bake 15-18 minutes, until heated through. Finish under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.