The word ‘involtini’ in Italian translates to ‘rolls’ in English, but refers to any form of bite-sized food that is wrapped in meat or veggies. Now before we go any further, I am aware that pasta is not a “roll”, but I did have a reason for making a pasta version of this dish. Just stay with me.
I’d browsed around Pinterest for a few Italian-style recipes to make while we were in Italy on our girls trip, and this one looked simple, rustic, and delicious. Having said that, one of the girls on the trip doesn’t like aubergine, so I decided to make a pasta version as well. However, one of the other girls is gluten-intolerant, so I made a gluten-free pasta version as well. With feeding 6 of us, we definitely needed the pasta dishes as well as the aubergine involtini.
I used a combination of involtini recipes to get the filling and sauce I wanted for this recipe. And the greatest part of the sauce is that it was made using entirely local ingredients. The tomatoes, herbs and garlic were all made in the garden of our AirBnB host, while the honey was made locally in Tuscany.
I had to buy a few ingredients from the supermarket, including the aubergines but everything was fairly local from there too. I was very happy to be making Italian dishes with purely Italian produce.
Luckily, during the process of making the involtini, I had someone with me to take photos – something I was fortunate to have both times that I cooked dinner in the villa.
It’s great fun cooking for a group of people, it’s even more fun when they eat everything you put in front of them!
For the sauce:
6 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 small tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/3 cups Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup fresh thyme, diced
juice of 1 lemon
2 large egg plants, sliced length ways into 1/2 cm strips
200 grams Paccheri pasta (or other tube-shaped pasta)
200 grams gluten-free Rigatoncini (or other tube-shaped pasta)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C.
- For the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn.
- Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Allow these to cook and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened.
- In a small frying pan, gentle fry the pancetta to render off the fat. Then add to the tomato sauce.
- Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients, and continue to simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes. Season to taste as you go.
- If you want the sauce to be smoother, use a hand blender or put it in a food processor.
- Get two baking trays, coat them generously with olive oil, and brush both sides of the aubergine slices with olive oil. Place in the baking trays and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the aubergine in the oven for 30 minutes.
- While the aubergine is cooking, put a large pan of water on the boil. Cook the pastas for 8 – 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, place all the ingredients for the filling. Mix well, so that the thyme is spread evenly through the cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper and combine well.
- Remove the aubergine from the oven, and turn the oven to grill/broil mode (heat only from above).
- Divide the tomato sauce into three hob- and oven-safe baking trays or skillets.
- Using a spoon, careful scoop 1 tbsp of filling onto a slice of aubergine, then roll it up carefully. Place the aubergine on top of the tomato sauce in one baking tray.
- Once the aubergine is all done, add filling to the pasta tubes (both GF and non-GF), until all of the pasta and filling has been used up. Place these onto their own separate tomato-sauce filled baking trays.
- Gently heat each baking tray/skillet over a medium hob for 5 minutes, until the sauce starts to bubble.
- Then place all three baking trays into the oven to grill/broil for 10 minutes, to brown up the aubergine a bit more.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Feel free to serve with extra Parmesan.