Italian Eggplant Ricotta Rollatini

Since we are on an Italian spree, we thought we’ll give you all a recipe thats refreshing, not overdone and can be made with simple ingredients from our kitchen staples. We hate it too when one has to go from store to store for some really exotic and inaccessible ingredients.

So, if you ever thought… what do Italians eat for a meal, other than pasta – then it is probably this! There are numerous other similar recipes which we will bring to you really soon.

For this you need 3 basic garden fresh ingredients. Spinach, tomatoes, long eggplant/brinjals and garlic. Other than this, we will be using 3 types of Italian cheeses.

There’s no Italian meal without a cheese. Primarily, we need ricotta, a fresh Italian cheese. You can either use store-bought or use our ricotta recipe. Other than that we have used parmigiano reggiano for the flavour and mozzarella for that stringy topping.

If you don’t have parmigiano reggiano, you can simply use parmesan. The difference is that parmigiano reggiano is the original cheese from the Italian city of Parma near Rome. Only cheese from Parma can be called parmigiano reggiano as it comes under the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO). They have laws guiding the ageing and the cheese-making process. Similar cheese from any other place outside of this city can be called parmesan but should be made in a similar way.

In this picture we are with Federica Corradi and her uncle Leonardo Corradi in their cheese factory in Parma.

So if you get parmigiano reggiano its definitely from Parma because nobody else can call it that. We learnt this during our visit to Casearia Corradi, a family-run cheese factory in Parma, Italy. In the picture above, you can see the many wheels of parmigiano reggiano being aged as per the lawful guidelines for cheese-makers in Parma.

Take the pureed and sieved tomatoes in a pan. Let it bubble and cook for 20-25min or till they have reduced and changed colour like in the pictures above. Remove from flame, add garlic, salt and olive oil. Then leave to cool.

To blanch the spinach, boil water in a saucepan, put the spinach leaves in it for 2-3 minutes and then strain. DO NOT COVER while blanching. Once blanched, chop it roughly to get minced spinach.

In a bowl, take the chopped spinach, ricotta cheese, parmigiano reggiano, salt and pepper. Make a mixture and keep aside.

Slice the eggplant into long strips like in the image above.

Drizzle with salt and olive oil and grill on the pan till they’re slightly cooked and start turning golden.

Put the filling on one end of the eggplant strip and roll it up firmly. Spread some of the tomato sauce on the base of a baking dish. Arrange the eggplant rolls in the dish.

At this stage preheat your oven at 190° C.

Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls. Cover them evenly.

Tear the mozzarella cheese and top it with that.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve hot while the cheese is still melted and soft.

Recipe: Italian Eggplant Ricotta Rollatini

Ingredients

500gm Long Brinjal/Eggplant
250gm Spinach
1kg Tomatoes
125gm fresh ricotta cheese, or half of our homemade ricotta recipe
100 gm Mozzarella Cheese
50 gm Parmesan Cheese/cheese, grated
8-10 cloves Garlic, minced
15-18 Fresh Basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt
Freshly crushed pepper

Method

  1. Puree the tomatoes and strain them to remove the seeds and peel. Cook the tomato pulp on medium heat for 20-25 minutes or till it has reduced to half. Add the minced garlic, salt and 3-4tbs olive oil and leave to cool.
  2. Blanch the spinach in boiling water and drain to remove all the water. Chop it roughly to get a minced spinach. To the fresh ricotta add parmesan cheese, blanched spinach, 2-3 basil leaves chopped, salt and pepper. Mix well and keep aside.
  3. Slice the brinjal as thin as possible lengthwise. Drizzle with some salt and olive oil to coat well. Grill on a hot pan on both sides till golden brown and soft. Keep aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C. In a baking dish put a layer of the tomato sauce. Put a little cheese filling on the brinjal and roll it up. Arrange these over the tomato sauce in the dish seam side down.
  5. Finish off by pouring the tomato sauce over the rolled brinjal. Tear and put mozzarella cheese over it and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and put the basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Ricotta Lemon Cake

A perfect dessert with a truly Italian touch… our favourite! We made ricotta, and then we thought what best we could use it for, and we came up with this. Its a beautiful cake with a slightly smooth and grainy texture at the same time. It is not fluffy like other cakes, but owing to the moist ricotta, this cake has a full-bodied texture and that oh-so-lemony freshness!

This is what you’ll need along with ricotta. To make fresh ricotta click here for the recipe.

To begin, line your cake tin like this. Put two strips in a cross. Then draw the base of the cake tin on a sheet of baking/parchment/butter paper. Cut it out and place it on top of the cross. You can use a springform pan (the cake tin with a loose bottom and a spring clasp at one side), it would be easy to remove the cake from. If you don’t have one of those, then go ahead and do the cross thing.

Take the butter and sugar in a big bowl and cream it for at least 5 minutes. You can use an electric beater, stand mixer or even a whisk. If using a whisk just beat it a bit longer. The mixture will turn lighter in colour, which means it has been aerated. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. This will ensure your batter is fluffy.

Now, to the egg, butter sugar mixture add the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla essence. Mix well. Now add the flour and baking powder and beat lightly first to ensure the flour doesn’t fly away from the batter. The batter could look grainy but thats perfectly fine. Its due to the texture of ricotta.

Put it in a preheated oven. This is what your batter would look like. Don’t tap it to smoothen out the top. It will even out itself in the oven.

Once baked, it will look somewhat like this. If the colour differs a bit don’t worry. Each oven is different and it could look different due to that.

Don’t invert the cake. This cake has a short crumb and not a spongy crumb because of the cheese, so it will break if you handle it ungently. Lift it out with the help of the two cross strips. This is why we had put those, to aid in taking the cake out from the tin. After putting the cake on a plate, gently slide the strips out. This cake sinks on cooling, so don’t worry.

Dust some icing sugar on top and garnish with mint or flaked almonds or nuts.

Slice it when its cooled.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm. You can also serve it with some fresh berries or a berry compote. This cake is crusty outside and soft and moist inside.

Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Cake

Ingredients:

250 gm Fresh Ricotta
150 gm All-purpose Flour
150 gm Caster Sugar
100 gm Butter, softened room temperature
2 Eggs, Room temperature
2 tsp Baking Powder
Zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Essence
Icing Sugar for Dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake tin with baking paper or parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl beat softened butter and sugar for 5 min. In another bowl sift together flour and baking powder.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Beat for 3-4 minutes to get a light fluffy batter.
  4. Add ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat for a minute. The mixture will look grainy which is fine.
  5. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed to prevent flour from flying.
  6. Pour the batter in the lined cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 mins or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool for 30 mins and then remove from the cake tin.
  8. Dust with Icing sugar and eat warm.

Fresh Ricotta

Ricotta is a fresh and soft Italian cheese… and truly delicious! It has a soft grain and light texture. Traditionally, ricotta was made with milk and whey left after making other cheeses. Thats how it got its name “ricotta” which literally translates to re-cooked. However, ricotta is now very sought after because of its slightly sweet taste and its ability to hold its consistency. Thus, its widely used in desserts and Italian cuisine. Its best use is to add it to the filling for lasagne, ravioli, cannelloni and conchiglie.

You literally need just two ingredients to make fresh ricotta at home. Milk and lemons, thats all!

You can use any milk for this, but the result could vary a bit. We have used regular whole milk. You can use skimmed milk too but you might end up with a lesser quantity of ricotta (which is fine). So, using whole or full fat milk would be better, but even others work well.

Put the milk to heat in a pan. We want hot milk but DO NOT BOIL THE MILK. Now, this is very important. You want to heat it only till you start seeing the bubbles on the edge of the pan. As soon as that happens, turn off the flame. Keep your lemon juice ready and after you have turned off the flame, add it to the milk. Stir very delicately to make sure its mixed.

Let it stand for 10-20 minutes and the soft cheese will start to curdle and separate from the whey. Whey is that thin watery liquid that separates from milk while making cheese or curd. If the milk has still not curdled, be patient. If it still doesn’t, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and it should curdle.

Be sure, not to stir it too much or too vigorously, otherwise you will turn it into cottage cheese. There is a very fine line between ricotta and cottage cheese!. On stirring too much, it will become firmer, and we’re looking for a soft cheese.

When you stir very gently, the cheese will start to show… almost as if emerging from the milk-whey liquid.

It will finally look something like this. Such a beauty!

Keep a pot ready with a big sieve on top. Place a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth on top of the sieve. Make sure there’s enough distance between the sieve and the base of the pot, so that when we leave it to strain, the cheese is not touching the strained liquid whey.

This is what it will look like. At this stage, leave it to drain the excess liquid. The draining time is directly proportional to the firmness of cheese. If you let it stand longer and let more liquid drain out then you will get a firmer ricotta. Alternately, if you don’t leave it for very long so that it retains some moisture, then you will get a softer cheese.

This really depends on the purpose of use.
Soft Ricotta: for, cakes, tarts, cannoli, puddings, mousse and other desserts
Firm Ricotta: for ravioli, cannelloni, conchiglie, lasagne, tortellini and the likes.
Ricotta doesn’t melt on baking and thats why its the first choice for the filling of stuffed pastas.

Its ready to use when cooled. You can store it in the refrigerator for upto a week.

Recipe: Fresh Ricotta

Ingredients

1 litre milk
2 lemons

Method

  1. Take milk in a sauce pan and heat it to just before it comes to a boil. You will start seeing a few bubbles on the edge of the pan.
  2. Meanwhile juice 2 lemons and keep aside.
  3. Line a soup strainer with muslin cloth or cheesecloth and place the strainer over a big pot.
  4. As soon as you see bubble on the edge of the milk turn off the flame and add the lemon juice. Stir it delicately to ensure the lemon juice is mixed well with the milk.
  5. Let it stand for 10-20 minutes. You will see that the soft cheese would curdle and separate leaving behind the whey.
  6. If the milk doesn’t not curdle completely just add an additional 1 tbsp of lemon Juice. Over stirring will make the cheese harder so stir less to get a soft cheese.
  7. Drain the cheese over the cheesecloth and let it stand from anywhere between 20-50 minutes. For a fresh and  light ricotta, drain it for a short time and for a more dense ricotta drain it for a longer period.
  8. This amount of milk will yield ricotta between 260-220gm depending on the amount of drainage time. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator for 6-8 days.