This recipe came about when trying to find a vegetarian dinner with an Italian theme that I could cook with my best mate. It is not a traditional Italian recipe as we added loads of chunky vegetables to the sauce to suit our taste. The aubergine is sliced very thinly and par-baked first so it becomes roll-able and then acts as cannelloni would to hold a tasty spinach and cheese filling.
A word of advice: Make sure you have a a nice big baking dish that will definitely hold all the ingredients as you will need to cover it with foil during the first part of baking and you don’t want it to press on the top of your dish. Don’t do as we did which is to pile it all into a smaller dish, run out of foil and have to balance another tray over the top which fell off and spilled half our cheese topping all over the inside of the oven (woops).
Ahem! Moving on, the dish was very tasty despite our little mishap…
Aubergine Rolls (serves 3-4)
- 2 large aubergines
- 125g (1/2 a pack) ricotta
- 150g grated mozzarella, divided in 50g and 100g
- 100g grated parmesan
- 300g fresh spinach, wilted and squeezed to remove as much liquid as possible
- 1 egg
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper and sugar to taste
- 1 carton tomato passata
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 200g chestnut mushrooms, quartered (optional)
- 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- To make the tomato sauce, heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion, garlic and peppers until softened. Add the mushrooms and herbs and continue to fry until softened. Add the passata, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Remove the aubergine ends and slice them thinly. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place 12 aubergine slices on it. (You may need to use two baking sheet or bake the aubergine in two batches depending on the size of your oven). Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool.
- While the aubergine is cooking, prepare ricotta and spinach mixture. In a bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella (50g), parmesan, spinach, egg and garlic. Mix well and season to taste.
- Spread 1/2 the chunky tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.
- Generously spread ricotta/spinach mixture on an aubergine slice (about one heaped tablespoon), roll it and arrange on top of the sauce in the dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining aubergine slices.
- Top with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella (100g). Cover with foil, reduce oven to 180C and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.
Garlic Dough Balls
For the Pizza Dough:
- 200g Plain Flour
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 x 7g sachet Instant Active Dry Yeast
- 125ml Warm Water
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
For the Garlic Dough Balls:
- Pizza Dough
- 2 Garlic Cloves, grated or minced finely
- 1 tablespoon Butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon mixed Herbs (optional)
- A pinch of salt
For the Dough
- In warm water, mix sugar and instant yeast and let it rest for 5 minutes. The yeast will bubble up. This process is called ‘activating’ the yeast.
- Mix plain & salt
- Add oil & the water mixture to the flour
- Knead for 10 minutes by hand (or 6-7 minutes with electric mixer) to form a smooth and elastic dough
- Place the ball of dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 90 minutes or until it doubles in volume.
- Then punch down the dough and use as required
For the Garlic Dough Balls
- Cut the pizza dough into equal pieces (16-24 depending on how big you like your dough balls).
- Roll each piece between your palms to form small balls of dough. Place the balls on a baking pan at least ¼ inch apart from each other.
- Cover the baking pan & let it rest for 20-25 minutes. The balls will have puffed up
- Meanwhile, mix the garlic with melted butter, salt and herbs. Preheat your oven to 200C.
- Brush all the balls with the garlic butter (if any garlic pieces are left behind, place them on any of the balls). If you like, sprinkle your favourite herb on top of the balls.
- Bake them for 20 minutes or until the balls are golden brown and fully cooked through.
These are great dunked in the chunky, cheesy tomato sauce, just don’t plan on going to near anybody after eating them (unless they’re a vampire that you need to get rid of).