I think I have already said this before, but eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. You can make so many things with it and it always tastes so good! Here's the recipe for what has to be my all-time favorite side dish that can easily double up as an appetizer: involtini di melanzane, aka eggplant involtini. It is my mum's recipe and like all "mum's recipes" they are hard to beat.
The filling is the same as the one used for meat involtini, but the addition of tomato sauce and Parmigiano on top makes them even tastier… They are great eaten warm or cold, but I like them more at room temperature as I find that the taste of all the different ingredients comes together better that way. They are not hard to prepare and you can make them in advance (even the day before) and bake them when needed, or you could even bake them and eat them cold later on. Try them, I am sure they will not disappoint! These involtini are a regional Italian dish from Sicily!
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Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Next, add the tomato purée. Season with salt, to taste, and add the basil leaves. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (You may have to add more extra-virgin olive oil, depending on the breadcrumbs and how much they absorb the liquids.) You need to obtain a soft enough stuffing so that when you press it with your hands, it retains its shape and doesn’t crumble. Set aside.
Soak the eggplant in salty water for 30 minutes. Pat them dry and fill a medium-sized pot about 1/3 full with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot and fry the eggplant slices until done. Put them on a plate covered with paper towels to drain the excess oil.
Take 1 slice of fried eggplant and put some filling at the lower part of the slice. You should try and put at least 1-1 ½ tablespoons of filling per slice. Press the filling with your hands, so it becomes like a patty. Now, roll the eggplant over it. Repeat this for all the slices of eggplant and set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the involtini in an oven dish big enough to fit all of them tightly in 1 layer. Cover them with the tomato sauce and top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.