Traditional cannelloni is made with pasta noodles, but I wanted to put a lighter spin on things and omit the pasta altogether for a naturally gluten free dish. I've mentioned before that my husband took some convincing before he came around to enjoying eggplant, but now he's a convert! These are so easy to make, yet they look complicated and fancy. One large eggplant made 10 rolls, which is enough for my family. The recipe could easily be doubled or more. I use homemade tomato sauce, but if you're buying from a jar, one jar should be enough. Or, buy a jar of strained tomatoes, add some garlic, basil, olive oil and salt to the tomatoes in a sauce pot, and simmer until flavours are combined. A little bit of tomato paste can thicken things up.
1 jar tomato sauce, put aside
1 large eggplant
1 container (475g) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunch baby spinach, washed and stems trimmed, roughly chopped (or 1 box frozen spinach, thawed and well drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F
1- Thinly slice clean eggplant lengthwise (to get long strips, not rounds) and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 10 minutes. This draws out the bitter taste. Wipe off salt with a paper towel. Place eggplant in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2- While eggplants are baking, heat tomato sauce to a simmer. In a frying pan, sauté spinach and garlic until spinach is wilted. Turn off heat. If there is any liquid in the pan, drain it.
3- Add ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper to spinach. Stir to combine.
4- Place about 2 tablespoons of spinach and ricotta mixture on a slice of eggplant, about a quarter of the way down from the top. Roll eggplant around mixture, and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining slices. When finished, ladle tomato sauce over eggplant rolls. Top with more grated parmesan, if desired.
5- Bake for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Serve immediately or place in fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.