Today’s recipe comes to you by way of food interpreter Eleanora Galasso, who was the special guest host at a dinner I recently attended. The dinner featured dishes made with Parmigiano Reggiano PDO. One of the dishes were these incredible Italian stuffed eggplant rolls filled with Parmigiano Reggiano, ricotta and hazelnuts, and Eleanora has been gracious enough to share the recipe today!
But, first things first: let’s talk about Parmigiano Reggiano PDO. One of the many reasons I love Italy is its steadfast adherence to preserving its food culture. One of the many ways it’s doing so is through the creation of PDOs, or Protected Designation of Origin certification for its original, regionally-produced products. The certification means that the distinctive features of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO and its area of origin are protected by European Union rules. Think of it like a trademark for food. That’s pretty amazing, right?
Parmigiano Reggiano DPO is considered the “king of cheeses” for its versatile yet complex flavor. It was evident in the dishes that Eleanora prepared for our dinner, ranging from zucchini fritters spiked with grated Parmigiano Reggiano to a really amazing spaghetti with lemon, pepper and guanciale (cured pork jowl) topped with shavings of Parmigiano.
My favorite dish of the night, however, were these lightly grilled Italian stuffed eggplant rolls. Sliced thinly and rolled up over a layer of pesto-flavored ricotta punctuated with toasted hazelnut pieces, these stuffed eggplant rolls were creamy, smoky and crunchy. Oh, and they’re seriously addictive, too. I could easily see myself making these ahead of time for a summer barbecue.
For more eggplant recipes that I’ve made in the past, check these out:
- 2 Iarge eggplants (aubergines)
- 1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon (20 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup (50 grams) arugula (rocket) leaves
- ⅓ cup (50 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated
- ⅓ cup (50 grams) hazelnuts + extra for decoration
- 1 tbsp capers, rinsed
- 1 garlic clove
- small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup (200 grams) ricotta cheese
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cut the ends off the eggplants and slice them with a sharp knife in ¼ inch (5mm slices). Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt and leave to rest skin-side down on a wire rack or a stack of paper towels for 1 hour to extract any bitter juices. Rinse and dry the aubergine slices with paper towels or a clean tea towel.
- Heat a griddle pan or grill. Brush each eggplant slice with olive oil. Cook in batches for 2-3 minutes, turning once, until softened and lightly charred. Arrange on a serving platter and season with pepper.
- In the same pan, lightly toast the hazelnuts for a couple of minutes and set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: in a standing mixer or a food processor, puree the arugula (rocket), Parmesan, hazelnuts, capers, garlic and basil until you get a creamy and dense sauce, then season to taste. Mix three quarters of the sauce with the fresh ricotta cheese and mix well. It should be creamy and fluffy.
- Lay out all of the slices of eggplant (aubergine) onto a clean surface. Place about one teaspoon of filling at the bottom edge of each one. Roll up the aubergine slices, like a cigar, around the filling, then drizzle them with the remaining arugula (rocket0 pesto sauce, basil leaves and some chopped grilled hazelnuts.
- Serve cold or warmed in the oven for 10 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).