We were booked for lunch at Alberto’s Lounge, a totally hip Italian joint in the middle of the Sydney CBD.
No kids, long-lunch, no deadlines. A perfect Saturday lunch.
And then the text lobbed in on Friday night. I was a casual contact at my new gym: get tested and isolate until you have a result.
So Nat said Alberto’s was coming to our place and whilst I was getting tested, Nat was procuring veal shoulder for a ragu and all the ingredients for this wonderful involtini.
The last time I had involtini, Nat also cooked it though with veal and during a long weekend in the Hunter Valley. I really wish I had typed that dish up; a mistake I was not going to make with this involtini.
I mean, thousands of 5-star reviews on NYTimes Cooking are unlikely to be wrong.
Open the Champagne and decant some solid wines!
In fairness, I don’t really know if this is what Alberto’s would have dished up, though if it was to be excellent, home-cooked Italian, then this involtini would have been on the cards.
3 eggplants, about 500gm each, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices; about 16 slices
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
225gm feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c pine nutes
1/3 c raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes until plump, then drained
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 tbsp (fresh) breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves plus some to serve
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- Heat oven to 180c. Place a ridged cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat and working in batches, brush eggplant slices on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and cook, turning until soft and crisscrossed with grid marks. Set aside and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine feta, pine nuts, raisins, 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint and parsley. Mix in egg and season well.
- Spread eggplant slices on a surface and divide stuffing evenly among them, placing 1 to 2 tbsp at one end of each slice. Roll up slices tightly to secure filling and place in a baking dish large enough to fit snugly in a single layer.
- Pour crushed tomatoes on top of the eggplant rolls and arrange the mozzarella slices in a line lengthwise down the centre of the pan. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil evenly over the pan and season well.
- Bake until the cheese has melted and eggplant is bubbling and fragrant; about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand for 10 minutes and serve hot.