Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini with Macadamia "Ricotta"

I'll admit I'd never heard of eggplant rollatini until this weekend (am I alone in this?). I saw it on the menu of a restaurant in Austin's hometown and thought it sounded genius. It's pretty simple really; it's just eggplant wrapped around ricotta with tomato sauce on top or, to put it differently, a lasagna roll made with eggplant instead of pasta. What's there not to love? If you're Austin, the eggplant. He tries to avoid eggplant at all costs (I think he just doesn't like the idea of it) so I knew that the true test of this dish would be whether he would like it. Well, not only did he say it was delicious, he even had seconds.

Austin was initially skeptical about nut "cheese", as I'm sure some of you are. As I've said to him, no, it doesn't taste exactly like dairy cheese but I think it has similar texture and hits the same flavor notes: slightly fatty (but with far less of the saturated stuff), tangy, salty and acidic. Some of you may also think you don't have at least 12 hours to soak nuts. Yes you do, it just takes some planning ahead. Throw them in a big bowl with water the night before you want to make "cheese". The next day all you have to do is drain them, put them in the food processor and voilà, homemade nut "cheese" in minutes!

While your going all homemade, why not try to whip up some tomato sauce? The recipe below is extremely simple and really tasty. Yes, it needs to simmer for one hour but you don't have to tend to it so you can use that time to cook the eggplant, make the "cheese", assemble the rollatini, pay bills, feed your pet or whatever else it is you need to do. Heck, you could even go crazy, make a double batch and freeze it. Yes, your jarred sauces will miss you but I promise they will recover.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini with Macadamia "Ricotta" 
Loosely Inspired by Giada di Laurentiis' Eggplant Rollatini
Makes 4 to 5 servings
  • 3 medium eggplants, washed, peeled if you're skin averse (I'm not) and cut lengthwise into about 1/2 in / 1.5 cm slices
  • 1 recipe of Macadamia "Ricotta"
  • 4-5 cups of your favorite jarred tomato sauce or Basic Tomato Sauce 
  • Olive oil for greasing
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: A couple handfuls of chopped parsley for garnish
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1.  Preheat your oven to 400 F / 204 C. Generously brush the eggplant slices with olive oil, season them with salt and pepper and arrange them on two baking sheets. Cook them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they start to brown and are slightly soft. If you're baking both sheets of eggplant at the same time, swap their placement on your two oven shelves half way through the cooking process.

2.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 F / 190 C. Grease a 9 by 13 inch (or any other size you have handy really, although the tighter the rollatini fit in the pan the better) casserole dish or baking pan with some olive oil. Place a heaping tablespoon of "ricotta" at one end of each eggplant slice and roll it up tightly. Place the rollatini seam side down on the greased baking pan. Repeat the process until you've filled all the eggplant slices.

3. Pour about 4-5 cups of the tomato sauce, depending how much you love sauciness, over the rollatini. If you'd like, mix any extra "ricotta" with a handful of chopped parsley and crumble it over the top. You can also sprinkle the top of the casserole with a tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Bake for 20 minutes or until the "ricotta" starts to brown. Garnish with some extra chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Macadamia "Ricotta"
Makes about 3 cups

  • 2 1/2 cups macademia nuts (cashews would be great too), soaked in water for at least 12 hours and drained
  • 2 teaspoons miso 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
Put all the in ingredients except the water into the food processor and whiz the mixture until it a uniform paste is formed. This may take a few minutes and require scrapping down the sides of the bowl a few times. With the processor running, add the water slowly through the feeding tube until the "cheese" has a ricotta-like texture. If you're not using this for the rollatini, you can spread it on sandwiches, crackers, dip veggies into it, put it on veggie burgers... you get the idea.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes about 6 1/2 cups
  • 2 28 oz / 795 g cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes (I used the kind packed in oil)
1.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Toss in the celery and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the carrots and the sun dried tomatoes and saute for approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, bay leaves and other spices and cook for about a minute.
2.  Pour in the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If you're making the rollatini with this sauce you'll have some leftovers which you can refrigerate or freeze.


  1. My caterer made this for a party. It was AMAZING! Even the non-vegans went nuts over it.

  2. That's great to hear! Glad it was such a hit!