Loosely adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen. The leftovers the next day taste delicious hot or cold, which makes this dish a good potluck option.
- 2 small Italian eggplants (or 1 large), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- Vegetable oil
- 16 ounces ricotta
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 ounces tomato sauce
- ¼ cup milk or heavy cream
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place the eggplant slices in a colander and lightly salt them. Let sit for 20 minutes until some moisture has been released. Pat the slices dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, place a large (15-inch) cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame. Pour in enough oil to reach at least ¼ inch up the sides. Heat the oil until it sizzles when you place the first eggplant slice in. Fry the eggplant in batches (about 4 or 5 slices at a time), flipping once, until lightly browned on each side and slightly flimsy to the touch. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more oil as necessary to keep a thin layer at all times. Allow the eggplant to cool enough so you can handle it. Drain any remaining oil from the pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, thyme, and salt. On a clean work surface, spoon a scant tablespoon of the ricotta mixture onto the end of an eggplant slice. Roll it up lengthwise until sealed. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- Pour the tomato sauce into the skillet so it comes up about a 1/2 inch on the sides; if using a smaller skillet, you may not need the full amount. Arrange the eggplant in the pan–they can be snug. Spoon the milk or cream over the eggplant rolls.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce has reduced enough to form a film around the sides of the pan, and the eggplant is golden brown. Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve alongside crusty bread or pasta.