All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018
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This is a really easy, 5-minute pasta sauce. It is fairly spicy so cut back on the crushed red pepper if you are sensitive to heat. Canned tomatoes are not desirable – even BAD – (read why you should avoid canned tomatoes & seven other foods HERE) – but they are sometimes the only affordable (and super convenient) option. .
Fresh herbs will also improve this sauce measurably but – in a pinch – they are absolutely not REQUIRED to make this sauce tasty.
Five (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce
1 27 oz carton tomato sauce
Garlic to taste
1 tsp each of crushed red pepper, oregano, pepper & sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh thyme (optional)
Fresh basil – chopped (optional)
Fresh parsley – chopped (optional)
Fresh oregano – chopped (optional)
1 TBS olive oil
Heat the olive oil. I sautéed maybe 10 tiny garlic cloves whole. If giant chunks of garlic offend you or yours, you might want to crush them a bit with the side of a knife or press them through a garlic press or chop them fine. Just do not burn the garlic and burning is easier – the smaller you chop the cloves. With whole cloves – I sautéed a minute before adding the spices. If you chopped the garlic – add it and the spices at once.After about a minute of both the garlic and all other spices sautéing – add the tomato sauce. Be careful as it will sputter and splatter you when it hits the hot oil.
A few minutes in – I used a slotted spoon to fish out the garlic cloves & put them through a garlic press but this is not totally necessary.Heat over med-low heat until ready to use. Add chopped fresh basil/parsley at the very end – if you are using fresh herbs.
Eggplant is an odd thing. Some of my favorite dishes are made of eggplant – most markedly my nearly guiltless Indian Baingan Bharta & one of the most popular recipes of this blog’s history, my Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant – both seen just below.
But if it is cut into slices or cubes that are too large & then under-cooked – it can have an icky texture & an icky flavor. Lots of people categorically reject it because the first time they tried it – it was yucky. But it is so versatile & can take on so many flavors so well. I love it & I feel certain I could convert more than a few haters – if I served them the right dish.
THIS dish might just be that dish – assuming they do not also hate spinach. The eggplant is very subtle & melts in your mouth. This could be customized a zillion ways. There are no rules. Just make a little mash of some flavors you like & roll’em up & bake them – and voila! Yes – there are a few steps but none are difficult & the result is delightful. A tad hard to photograph but really delicious.
Oh! I got this new little garlic press at Bed Bath & Beyond for (I think) under ten dollars & I am kind of in love with it. There are to ways to go with this – sliced or minced (there is a second blade tucked into the base) & all you do is press the garlic through & it creates a little drawer of crushed garlic for you. Se easy & easy to clean & no garlic fingers!
Easy Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach
Should feed 4
2 medium eggplant – tops removed & sliced 1/4 inch thick (thick makes assembly harder)
1 lb fresh spinach (or 8 oz frozen or other spinach – thawed)
3-4 cups (28 0z or so) – marinara (your favorite brand or homemade or the one I post below) or my 5-minute spicy arrabiata
Handful vegan Parmesan
1/2 cup vegan ricotta
1/4 cup parsley – chopped
4 oz vegan mozzarella
More vegan mozzarella to melt on top – to taste
Parchment paper (if possible but not imperative)
Garnish: more cheese and/or parsley and/or basil
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the tops off the eggplant & try to cut them evenly 1/4 inch thick. I used a mandolin. Lay the slices on paper towels & sprinkle with salt. Flip & salt the other side (lightly – so they won’t be overpowered by salt). Salting the eggplant helps release excess moisture & can temper any bitterness. Let them sit for about ten minutes.
Steam the fresh spinach by simply boiling a tiny bit of water to a very large stock pot & adding the spinach. Cover the pan. It should wilt in less than a minute (this works to thaw frozen spinach, too, though it might take longer). Strain into a colander & run cold water on it. Squeeze out as much water as you can & chop the spinach.
Put the spinach, parsley, & your Parmesan & ricotta & mozzarella cheese in a large bowl & blend. Add some S&P.
Pat the eggplant slices dry & sprinkle with ground pepper. Place them on a cooking sheet covered in parchment paper (or foil treated with cooking spray – because you do not want these guys sticking). Bake about ten minutes.
Layer some sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan. Spread about 2 TBS of the filling on each of the eggplant slices. If you have extra – spread it around. Carefully roll those guys up & place them in the pan, seam side down.
Layer some more sauce on top & then sprinkle with mozzarella. Cover tightly with foil & bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven & uncover & let rest a good 5-10 minutes before cutting in. Serve with more cheese and/or parsley and/or basil and copious red wine. See? You like eggplant!