The origins of Sicilian-style eggplant rolls are unknown. It seems to be one of those recipes that were not written down in books and cooking manuals but were instead passed down from one generation of housewives to another.
Unofficial sources claim that eggplant rolls are the younger siblings of the famous pasta alla Norma.
Pasta alla Norma is a typical Catanese recipe combining tomato sauce, fried eggplant and salted ricotta; when it originated is unknown. Pasta alla Norma got its name from the adjective “norma” in the Catanese dialect, meaning something extremely good or beautiful.
These eggplant rolls recall the ingredients of pasta alla Norma, but as they are small they make really great finger food.
The recipe for eggplant rolls is very simple; as with all traditional Italian recipes, the ingredients are essential. Here is the step-by-step way to make perfect eggplant rolls!
First wash the eggplant and cut into 1 cm slices; arrange the slices in a colander and place a weight on top for about one hour, so that the excess water is drawn out of the eggplant. While the eggplant drain, make the tomato sauce. Mince the onion and sweat it in extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan. Add the sieved tomato and fresh basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 15/20 minutes; turn off the heat.
Grate the salted ricotta and set it aside. Remove the eggplant from the sieve and squeeze lightly; lightly flour the individual slices and fry them in very hot vegetable oil until they take on a nice golden colour. Drain the eggplant on paper towels and then arrange in a dish. At this point, all the ingredients are ready, and you simply need to assemble the eggplant rolls.
Take a slice of fried eggplant, place a tablespoonful of tomato sauce in the centre, add a mint leaf, and sprinkle with the grated salted ricotta. Roll up the eggplant slices to form rolls and close them with a toothpick to hold them together. Do the same with all the eggplant. Just before serving, heat the rolls in a hot oven for a few minutes.
As an alternative to the salted ricotta, if you like stringy mozzarella you can add a cube of it to each slice of eggplant. For lighter eggplant rolls, grill the eggplant slices instead of frying them.