Vegetarian Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach

A rollatini is a a flattened slice of vegetable (or meat) rolled around a filling. Simple, right? Here, crisp thinly sliced eggplant is wrapped around a creamy ricotta spinach filling brightened with fresh lemon. Easy eggplant rollatini with spinach is a main course dish that’ll wow your guests, especially if they’re vegetarian.

stacked rolls of eggplant rollatini on scalloped white plate
Rolled eggplant around creamy ricotta cheese makes for one cozy meal!

When you hear “eggplant”, what comes to mind? Cheesy eggplant parmesan? I’m hoping that once you wrap your head around how easy (and good!) it is to make eggplant rollatini, you’ll want to rotate between alllll the eggplant recipes we’ve got around here!

Especially this super popular roasted eggplant salad with tahini dressing.

Speaking of wrapping things around other things…


What does “rollatini” mean?

“Rollatini” is the American term for the Italian word, “involtini”. Involtini translated means “rolls.”

-Josie + Nina

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The best eggplant rollatini recipe

baked eggplant rollatini in white baking dish with wooden spatula
A cheesy pan of eggplant rollatini is the perfect Sunday supper!

To call something the “best,” you have to feel pretty confident. When it was made in the J+N test kitchen, this easy eggplant rollatini got a unanimous 5 star rating.

Why?

  1. The eggplant is roasted first, guaranteeing that it doesn’t get mushy or soft.
  2. The flavorful cheese filling has a bonus of fresh baby spinach and a bright spot of lemon.
  3. The fresh tomato marinara sauce is simply simmered highlighting the flavor of fresh tomatoes in the easiest and purest way.

And that, my friend, makes for one amazing eggplant involtini.

Choosing eggplant for rollatini

If it’s summer, head to your favorite farmer’s market to shop for eggplant. That way you’ll get the freshest crop.

Whether there or at the grocery store, look for eggplants with the following features:

  • Straight. A straight and less curvy eggplant is easier to slice and roll for eggplant rollatini.
  • Slightly heavy. If it’s too light, the eggplant might be too young. Too heavy could contain too many seeds.
  • Smooth. Pass over any eggplants with blemishes or brown spots. You want one with a shiny smooth skin because that likely a fresher eggplant.
  • Dark even color. An evenly colored eggplant promised good flavor with little bitterness. And if there’s a bright green stem, that’s a good sign too!

What you’ll need

ingredients for eggplant rollatini with ricotta filling and tomato sauce
Eggplant rollatini ingredients includes eggplant, ricotta filling with spinach, fresh marinara sauce and cheese.

There are 3 main components of eggplant rollatini:

  • Eggplant (which you’re now an expert on if you read the above 😊)
  • Ricotta cheese and spinach filling. Similar to a cheese ravioli filling, this version mixes in some chopped fresh baby spinach for color, flavor and to amp up the vegetable quotient.
  • Tomato sauce. Make a double batch of this sweet and simply good fresh marinara sauce (freeze one for later). Or enter my judgement free zone and use a jarred tomato sauce (Rao’s Marinara Sauce is my in-a-pinch spaghetti sauce recommendation).

How to make eggplant rollatini

1. Prep the eggplant

blue sheet pan with slices of unbaked eggplant being brushed with oil for eggplant rollatini
Brush eggplant with a little oil before roasting.
sheet pan with slices of baked eggplant for rollatini
The pre-roasted eggplant should be golden and soft enough to roll.
  • Thinly slice the eggplant lengthwise from top to bottom (trim the ends first). About 6-7 slices per eggplant.
  • Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and lay on the eggplant slices with some room between them. Brush tops with more oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for about 10 minutes.

NOTE: we aren’t salting the eggplant to draw out the moisture in this recipe as the pre-roasting helps make it crispier. You, of course, can if you prefer!


Pro Tip

Keep the peel on the eggplant because the thin little purple skin makes a nice edge to the rollatini when baked.


2. Make the filling

white bowl of ricotta filling for eggplant rollatini
Mix the ricotta cheese filling (including a little goat cheese and lemon for zest).
slice of eggplant rollatini with ricotta filling
Fill the eggplant with the ricotta mixture. Just a tablespoon!

3. Roll and bake

white baking dish with sauce and starting to be filled with eggplant rollatini
Roll one end of the eggplant to the other and place down in a baking dish with sauce.
white baking dish of eggplant rollatini topped with cheese before baking
Top the whole thing with cheese and bake!
  • Mix the cheese filling ingredients with the chopped spinach until well blended and set aside.
  • After the eggplant has cooled a bit, spread about 1 Tablespoon of ricotta filling down the center of a piece of eggplant.
  • Roll the eggplant from one short end to the other, placing seam side down in a baking dish with some sauce at the bottom.
  • Ladle on sauce down the center of all the rolls, leaving edges exposed.
  • Top with cheese and bake.

Other sauce options

Wondering what other sauces work with eggplant rollatini? Give one of these easy and simple pasta sauces a try:

  • This 3 ingredient light cream sauce recipe would be excellent layered with some red sauce.
  • Cult-favorite tomato, butter and onion sauce. Made in 45 minutes!
  • Add a smattering of homemade pesto sauce with pine nuts to the eggplant after baking for extra bright herbal flavor.

Make ahead

You can pre-roast the eggplant and then assemble the rollatini in a baking dish. Don’t top with the tomato sauce until right before baking.

More tips for success

close up of baked eggplant rollatini rolls
Creamy, cheesy eggplant rollatini is vegetarian comfort food.
  • Firm ricotta filling. To insure that the ricotta filling isn’t too wet, be sure to drain any excess water off the top of the cheese container. Also, if using frozen chopped spinach, squeeze it between several layers of paper towel until dry or run it through a salad spinner.
  • Uniform slices: Make your eggplant slices as equally thick as possible for even cooking and so that the eggplant isn’t mushy.
  • Don’t overstuff. Not going too crazy with the ricotta filling will help the filling not leak out the sides of the rolls.
  • Tighten things up. If your rolls are having a hard time staying closed (likely due to overfilling or under-cooking), use a toothpick to seal the roll. Just remember to remove the toothpick before serving.

Storage, reheating, and freezing

Storage. Store leftovers in an airtight, resealable container for up to 4 days in the fridge.

Reheating. Heat the oven to 350˚ and reheat until desired temperature is achieved, about 10 minutes or so if coming straight from the fridge.

Freezing. I don’t recommend eggplant rollatini be frozen as I can’t guarantee that it won’t end up watery. If you find that it works, I’d love to hear your tips!

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


baked eggplant rollatini in white baking dish with wooden spatula
5 from 1 vote

Baked Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach

A rollatini is a a flattened slice of vegetable (or meat) rolled around a filling. Simple, right? Here, crisp thinly sliced eggplant is wrapped around a creamy ricotta spinach filling brightened with fresh lemon. Easy eggplant rollatini with spinach is a main course dish that'll wow your guests, especially if they're vegetarian.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:45 minutes
Homemade Sauce (if making):35 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients
 

For the ricotta filling

If making homemade sauce (you can use jarred sauce instead)

Instructions

For the eggplant

  • Preheat oven to 400˚. Gather two large baking sheets.
  • Cut the ends off the eggplant. Thinly slice the eggplant lengthwise from top to bottom. Make sure to have exposed edges of skin (it’s prettier). You should get about 6-7 slices per eggplant, about ⅛-¼" thick.
    2-3 straight eggplants
  • Drizzle some olive oil on each baking sheet. Lay slices of eggplant on the sheets and brush the tops with more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
    olive oil
  • Place in the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes.

Make the ricotta filling

  • Blend the ricotta mixture ingredients together including ½ cup of parmesan, goat cheese, chopped spinach, egg, parsley, seasoning and lemon. Set aside.
    8 oz whole milk ricotta, 3-4 oz goat cheese, ½ cup chopped fresh baby spinach, 1 egg, 1-2 T fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 cup parmesan cheese, ½ lemon

Make the sauce (or use jarred sauce)

  • Core the tomatoes.
    2 lbs fresh tomatoes
  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
  • Core the tomato removing the center core with a small knife or tomato corer (I got mine from Pampered Chef a while ago).
  • Gently squeeze the cored tomato to remove the seeds.
  • Make an “X” at the cored end of the tomato with a sharp knife and drop the tomato into the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds tops. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Once cool to the touch, peel the tomato from the top down.
  • Take your already peeled tomatoes [see above] and roughly dice them into a medium chop.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and once heated, saute the chopped onion. Once the onion is nice and golden (about 3-5 minutes), add the chopped garlic and saute until you can smell it [about 30 seconds or so].
    1 Tablespoon olive oil, ½ small onion, 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Add the diced tomatoes along with the basil, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    6-8 leaves fresh basil

Assemble the rollatini

  • Preheat the oven to 400˚.
  • Spread approximately 1 Tablespoon of ricotta filing down the center of a piece of eggplant. From the short end, roll the eggplant from one end to the other. In a 9×13” pan or oval baking dish, ladle a scoop of sauce. Line the rollatini, seam side down, in the sauce until all the eggplant is used.
  • Ladle over more sauce and sprinkle with pieces of fresh mozzarella and remaining parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted, the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden. Enjoy!
    ¼ lb fresh mozzarella, salt and pepper
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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