Eggplant Involtini with Cashew Ricotta. Don’t be intimidated by the name. It’s a fancy title for eggplant rolled around creamy cashew ricotta and baked. I don’t know about you, but this is pretty much my idea of dinner heaven.
When it’s raw, eggplant can be spongy and plain, but once it’s roasted, it comes into its full glory – tender, creamy flesh with a satisfying meatiness. The classic approach to this dish is to bread and fry the eggplant. However, this method is tedious and obscures the signature ingredient. So I ditch both steps for a lighter, less fussy version.
Since I am sensitive to dairy, my days of eating ricotta are few and far between. The fact that so many conventional dishes are off limits for me is like a blessing in disguise. It really forces me to get out of my comfort zone and explore unfamiliar ingredients and flavor combinations – a process which has resulted in so many delicious discoveries, like cashew ricotta!
Although you can easily buy ricotta from the grocery store, I encourage you to make this version. It’s very simple and the best part is it doesn’t contain any dairy, preservatives or additives. You can even make it a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to use.
This recipe also uses my go-to tomato sauce, the one I rely on for topping pasta, zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash. Feel free to add mushrooms or other vegetables for a more hearty, meaty texture as well as anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting nutrients. This is easily one of the healthiest and heartiest sauces I make!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup packed fresh basil, chopped
- 1-28 ounce can whole or diced tomatoes, with their juices
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 16 ounces firm tofu, drained and crumbled
- ¼ cup fresh basil, loosely packed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggplants
- Cashew Ricotta
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- Fresh basil, to garnish
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onion and garlic and stir to combine. Sauté for 5-6 minutes until onion becomes translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add basil, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, oregano and thyme. Stir to combine. With a wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes in chunks, bigger or smaller depending on how chunky you like your sauce.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes while you prepare the cashew ricotta and eggplant involtini.
- Combine cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in food processor and blend until a thick paste forms.
- Add tofu and blend until smooth.
- Blend in salt and basil.
- Heat oven to 375° F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut eggplants lengthwise into ¼-1/2'’ thick slices. Place on baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 15 minutes, flip then bake for another 15 minutes, until soft. Depending on how large your eggplant slices are, you may need to repeat this process twice.
- Once done, remove baking sheet from oven and cool.
- Place a spoonful of cashew ricotta on the wider end of the eggplant slices and gently roll up.
- Once tomato sauce is ready, transfer it to a baking tray.
- Place rolled eggplant involtinis, sealed side down, in tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts and breadcrumbs, if desired.
- Place under broiler for about 3-4 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve as a starter or a main dish with some grain or pasta.
Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Gluten-Free