03 February 2011
Okay, get ready...here comes another Italian dish inspired by the cooking at Trattoria Grappolo. Slices of roasted eggplant are wrapped around capellini in tomato-basil sauce to make involtini, then each little roll gets topped with smoked mozzarella and baked until the cheese is melted and golden.
I love roasted eggplant. It's luscious and savory, soft and creamy in texture. And I love pasta with red tomato sauce. And the smoked mozzarella adds another delicious dimension. So all in all, I'm finding this dish to be pretty awesome...a tasty fusion of some of my favorite flavors! It doesn't hurt, either, that the presentation is gorgeous.
Or that this dish is so easy to make. Really!
Or that it's perfect for entertaining (you can break the recipe down into several do-ahead steps). A pair of involtini would make a lovely first course (the primo, if we're going to stick with our Italian), or serve up three per person for a vegetarian main dish.
Okay, quick confession here: I'm really bummed I didn't have extra basil for the garnish--but the chopped parsley I ended up adding after the photo shoot was actually a fantastic finishing touch, both in flavor and in looks...so don't get too tied up if you don't have a ton of fresh basil on hand!
Eggplant Capellini Involtini
Adapted from the Trattoria Grappolo Cookbook
Makes 4 servings (12 rolls)
2 large (1 lb. each) eggplants
3 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 cup diced carrot
3/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil leaves, loosely torn
1/2 pound capellini (angel hair pasta)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
4-8 oz. smoked mozarella (depending on how much cheese you like!)
Whole basil sprigs or chopped parsley, for garnish
Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices (you will want at least 12 large slices). Lightly brush each side with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange slices on two baking sheets and bake at 400 F until golden brown in spots (about 30 minutes), switching baking sheets half-way through. Remove eggplant from oven and let cool slightly, then stack slices together to trap moisture and ensure that they are nice and soft for rolling. (Can be made ahead. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.)
Meanwhile heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot over high heat, then saute the carrot, onion, and garlic until onion becomes translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, then add the crushed tomatoes and basil. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes until carrots are soft. Remove pot from heat and blend thoroughly using an immersion stick blender. Check seasoning and add sea salt to taste. This should make about 4 cups of sauce. (Can be made ahead. Store covered in refrigerator up to one week.)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook capellini according to package directions until al dente. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta with 2 cups of the prepared tomato sauce. Strain and transfer the capellini to the large bowl and mix to thoroughly coat each strand of pasta with the sauce. (Work quickly to mix the sauce in, as capellini tends to clump together soon after being drained from the cooking water.)
Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in a large baking dish, then prepare the involtini. Place a generous 1/2 cup of the capellini mixture on the narrow end of an eggplant slice, then roll up snugly and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining pasta and eggplant slices.
Layer thin slices of smoked mozzarella over the top of the involtini. (Can be made ahead. Cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and store refrigerated up to 2 days.) Bake at 400 F until involtini have heated through and the smoked mozzarella has become browned and bubbly. For each serving, spoon some of the remaining tomato sauce on a plate or shallow bowl and place 3 rolls on top. Sprinkle with a little minced fresh parsley or basil for some pretty color!
Posted by erica at 11:02 PM