How many companies have a working commercial kitchen in their corporate offices? For that matter, how many have a dedicated corporate chef? Carmelina Brands does. The well-stocked, well-used kitchen is where chef Giacomo Pagano, who, like Carmelina’s tomatoes, is from Campania, develops recipes. (Read my earlier post about the Mission Viejo company, its founder and products here, and a simple and good bruschetta recipe inspired by its surprising Italian legumes here. Still to come, a family-recipe pizza sauce from the company president.)
We were lucky enough to snag a recipe from chef Pagano’s kitchen: Involtini di Melanzane—eggplant rolls, remarkably less euphonious in English, but no less delicious—filled with fresh mozz, herbs, and a zingy strip of sun-dried tomato. If you, like me, really love eggplant, (whose high season is exploding at the moment), this is one for your recipe repertoire.
The eggplant slices can be prepared up to a few days ahead and refrigerated. I served the rolls on pasta tossed with some extra sauce—the basic sauce included is very good, making the recipe’s built-in leftovers a delicious advantage.
Involtini di Melanzane
Makes 20 rolls, or 6 to 10 servings.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped (I used a fine Microplane)
Big pinch of chili flakes
Few leaves fresh basil, chopped
Couple of sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
2 large cans (28 ounces) Carmelina chopped or whole tomatoes, puréed
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggplants, each sliced lengthwise into 10 slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt, freshly-ground pepper
1 pound fresh mozzarella
20 basil leaves
Few tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Couple of tablespoons fresh marjoram or oregano leaves, or generous teaspoon dried
20 strips oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
For sauce, heat olive oil in a heavy, 3-quart saucepan, add garlic, chili flakes, basil, and parsley. Sauté briefly, then add puréed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt or to taste, and several grinds black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
For eggplant, brush slices lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until completely cooked. Or, bake on parchment-lined pans in a preheated 400-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes, turning once, until pliable and slightly browned. Set aside.
Oil or spray with non-stick spray an oven-safe baking dish.
Cut mozzarella into 20 wedges, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with Balsamic vinegar.
Onto each eggplant slice put a mozzarella wedge, a basil leaf, a little parsley, a few leaves of marjoram or oregano, and a sun-dried tomato strip. Roll up gently but snugly and secure with toothpick. Place seam-side down into prepared dish.
Cover generously with tomato sauce (there’ll be extra) and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until tip of knife inserted in center feels very hot upon removal. Allow to sit a couple of minutes before serving.
From chef Giacamo Pagano of Carmelina Brands.