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Before returning to New York from her vacation in Tuscany, Rachael made the most of the veggies from her garden in Italy with these cheese-stuffed eggplant rolls baked in a quick and easy marinara sauce. Basically, she says, the dish is like eggplant Parm without the breading (or frying). You can serve it as a vegetarian entree or a side. It's a great make-ahead recipe, too!
Pro Tip from Rach: Look for eggplant that are firm, hard and heavy.
Rach prepared the eggplant for a dinner with family and friends that included John's "Big Mistake" Cocktail (a bubbly twist on the Negroni), Jamie Simpson's Raw Zucchini Pasta Salad with Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Maria's Ricotta Cake and Olive Oil Cake.
For the easy marinara, place the tomatoes in a food processor, in batches if necessary, depending on the size of the processor, with the onions, garlic, EVOO, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, sugar and salt. Whizz up and transfer to pot, then simmer 20 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Pour half into a casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 425°F, with rack at center.
For the rolls, salt the eggplant and dry a bit on towels.
In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, fennel seed and/or pollen, pepper flakes, granulated garlic, granulated onion, ground thyme and ground sage. Spray eggplant with EVOO, then season with salt, pepper and the spice mixture. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until browned and tender, about 20 minutes.
While eggplant cools, combine cheeses in a bowl.
Roll cooled eggplant slices with a few rounded tablespoons of the cheese mixture, place in sauce in the casserole dish and top with more sauce and a little extra Parm. Bake again for a few minutes to set cheese and serve.