I could title this recipe 'An ode to the aubergine' but I went with a rather more conventional name. For those who don't already know, I'm an aubergine enthusiast! I'm thinking of having jackets made. Regular readers of the blog (if we have any of those) will have seen my take on my nonna's classic melanzane parmigiana which epitomises my love of all things aubergine. Anyway... I'm back with another dish where the aubergine is king. I've been enjoying the aubergine season over the summer (more of this to come in future blog posts, keep your eyes peeled) and I fully intend to focus on aubergine in the coming weeks.
This dish is a revised, vegetarian take on braciole or involtini de manza which are pieces of beef steak stuffed with tasty things, rolled up and slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce. I developed my recipe for the meaty version last summer, when I was creating an Italian menu to go with a selection box of Jacob's Creek Reserve - although never got around to posting it. While I provided a veggie alternative at the time, it occured to me after the time that aubergine could be a lovely alternative to the meat. Admittedly, slow-cooking isn't really applicable with the aubergine as too much structural integrity would be lost but the flavours of the stuffing - the garlic, basil, parsley, oil - balances really well with the aubergine and smothered in a wonderful tomato sauce.
Talking vegan options - the stuffing in the recipe includes egg which adds a nice richest (and was quite important in the meat-y version as it kept the dish moist) but isn't essential. You could add raisins instead - sounds weird but, trust me, it works.
Here's what you need.
- 2 aubergines, sliced lengthways
- 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 1 egg, hard boiled and grated
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
1. Start by making up the stuffing. This needs to sit and mull for a while. Bash the toasted pine nuts in a pestle and mortar until finely ground. Mix in the basil, parsley, grated egg, breadcrumbs, crushed garlic (1 clove) and olive oil with a little salt and pepper. Leave to one side so it can think about itself.
2. Now to start the tomato sauce. Fry 2 cloves of garlic gently in some oil until it starts to go golden and fills your kitchen with a glorious smell. Add the tomatoes (wash the can out with a little water and throw this in too) and crush with the back of a spoon if you're not using chopped tomatoes. Cook down adding the tomato puree and a little salt after about 10 minutes. This should take around 25-30 minutes in total.
3. While the tomato sauce is cooking, turn your attention to the aubergines. Slice them lengthways into thin-ish slices (up to 1cm thick). Fry the aubergine slices in a vegetable oil until soft and slightly golden, a minute or two on each side.
4. Now to roll up the aubergine. With the short edge towards you, spoon around a teaspoon of stuffing onto the end and roll the aubergine up. Place into an oven-proof dish and repeat until you're out of aubergine slices or stuffing (whichever comes first).
5. Add the tomato sauce to the top of the aubergines and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 180C.
We serve this with oven-roasted, garlic potatoes and some green beans. Would be good with some butter-y garlic bread too if you want more carbs!