Involtini is a classic Italian dish that looks a little special but is so quick and easy to make. This vegan eggplant involtini combines homemade cashew ricotta with sweet onion rolled in zucchini ribbons and baked eggplant. Add freshly cooked tomato and basil sauce and this beautifully rustic dish is ready to impress.
Short form Canadian poet Atticus wrote, “Yesterday has forgotten us, tomorrow hasn’t met us yet, but today is waiting for us and could just be our greatest friend.” Is it just me or do most adults need this reminder on a more than regular basis? I know I am not the only one who frets over yesterday’s mistakes or dwells on how they will impact all the tomorrows. Meanwhile, today is standing right in front me ready to be filled with new experiences and adventures. I am a worrier. My name is Amanda and I am a worrier. Hi, Amanda. Hi.
In the last few weeks I have been working on making one of my biggest dreams come true and it is so close I can taste it. But, in true worrier – not warrior – fashion I have filled my head with all the things that might go pear-shaped. How will I balance it all? Will the Elf forgive me months of long working hours or am I resigning her to a life of therapy? What if she tries crack while I’m looking the other way? Ok, she’s three but you get my point. Her chocolate addiction is far more real and pressing. This process has me reflecting; why do we look for cracks in the rainbow when it appears? Is it fear? Do we look for reasons to refuse opportunity because we’re scared we’re not up to the task?
Well, I don’t want to do that anymore and I don’t want anyone else to either. I am scared and I am afraid I will fail. But, I have spent the last two years of my daughter’s life telling her that being brave isn’t about not being scared, it’s about acting even when she’s scared.
My daughter lives in the moment and I am challenging myself to do the same. Perhaps the only thing on the underside of a rainbow is another rainbow.
Enough said, warriors…to the kitchen with us.
I began making vegan eggplant involtini many moons ago and over the years I have tweaked the recipe to its current form. In the beginning, I fried off the eggplant but found that simply brushing the slices with oil and baking them created an equally delicious dish with only a smidgen of the oil. Smidgen, what a great word. I like to use my go-to tomato and basil sauce with lemon zest when time and enthusiasm permits. It is fresh and sweet and I add spinach to boost my green intake for the day but I have been known to use a cheeky store-bought sauce. It’s all good.
Involtini is one of those wonderfully rustic Italian dishes that looks impressive but is simple to make. In this version I add zucchini but you could play with so many vegetables; finely sliced sweet potato or parsnip would work but you might need a little extra time in the oven. The one thing I always include in my involtini is the sweet onion cashew ricotta. The onion provide such a depth of flavour to the dish and is the perfect balance to the fresh tomato sauce. While cooking down onions can take forever, I shortcut the process by cooking them in a little water, sugar and salt. The result is wonderfully soft and sweet onions in a third of the time.
Combining Italian traditional with a few shortcuts, this vegan eggplant involtini is simple enough to whip up for the family but impressive enough to serve to guests. If only everything in life was as deliciously simple; I guess it can be…if I let it.
Vegan Eggplant Involtini with Sweet Onion Ricotta
Yield 8 rolls
This vegan eggplant involtini combines homemade cashew ricotta with sweet onion rolled in zucchini ribbons and baked eggplant.
Cashew Ricotta with Sweet Onions
- 1 scant cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or at least 4 hours
- 1/4 cup (60ml) almond or soy milk + plus more if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tbs (40ml) lemon juice
- 1 brown onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 cup (125ml) water
- 1/2 tbs raw sugar
- a good pinch of sea salt
Tomato and Basil Sauce
- 1 tbs (20ml) olive oil
- 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
- 1 x 400 gram can cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup baby spinach, finely chopped
- 1 handful fresh basil, torn
- Zest of two lemons
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 medium to large eggplants, ends removed and sliced lengthways in to 1cm widths
- Olive oil to brush the eggplants
- 2 zucchinis, sliced in to ribbons using a vegetable peeler
- Olive oil to drizzle
- Sea salt to season
- To make the cashew ricotta, place the chopped onion, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, for around fifteen minutes or until the water has cooked away and the onions are soft and sweet.
- Meanwhile, drain and rise the soaked cashews and place them, the milk, garlic powder and lemon juice in a blender and blend until well combined and smooth. The cashews will still have a little texture. Add more milk one teaspoon at a time if needed to get the mixture moving. Place the "ricotta" in a bowl before adding the onion and stirring through. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two baking trays with parchment. Brush each eggplant with olive oil on both sides and place them on the trays. Place in the oven for seven minutes before turning each eggplant slice over and cooking for another ten minutes. The eggplant should be pliable to roll but not overcooked.
- While the eggplant is cooking, heat the oil for the tomato sauce in a small saucepan before sautéing the garlic for a minute. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two minutes before adding the spinach, basil and lemon zest. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, for around ten minutes. Add sea salt to taste.
- Once the eggplant is cooked, remove them from the oven and allow to cook slightly. Leave the oven on at 180 degrees C.
- Set up an assembly line on your kitchen counter starting with the tomato sauce, followed by the eggplant, zucchini ribbons and finally the cashew ricotta. Place an oven-proof baking tray or skillet near you.
- To assemble to involtini, spoon enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of your pan. On a board or plate, lay a slice of eggplant down followed by overlapping ribbons of the zucchini (I use enough zucchini to match the width of the eggplant). Spoon around a tablespoon of the cashew cheese on to the zucchini on the end closest to you before rolling the stack gently away from you. Place the roll down on to the tomato sauce with the seem down to keep the roll in place. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
- Spoon any remaining tomato sauce in between and in the centre of the rolls before drizzling with olive oil and adding a pinch of sea salt. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot.