Grilled Eggplant Rollatini with Ground Turkey and Kale

There are so many classic dishes out there, many of which make for great centerpieces of a culinary spread during a dinner party, but not many of them are low in carbs. One vegetable-based dish I find to always impress guests is eggplant rollatini.

Until recently, my rollatini was always loaded with creamy whole milk ricotta, ground beef, sausage and mozzarella cheese, all rolled in a breaded and fried strip of eggplant, covered in sauce and smothered with more cheese. The flavors were always out of this world, but there was always a price. From the amount of calories consumed to that lethargic feeling I was left with after just a few pieces, I knew I needed to rethink this dish if I were to keep making it as often as I wanted to.

This Grilled Eggplant Rollatini with Ground Turkey and Kale cuts out loads of fat while still keeping the flavor and decadence of my original rendition. The addition of kale adds texture, nutrients and another layer of flavor to the filling (which could easily be substituted with other greens like spinach). Topped with the same fresh mozzarella cheese, you are left with a dish that will fulfill every rollatini wish. And by grilling the eggplant instead of breading and frying it, the carb count is cut tremendously, keeping this dish light and healthy.

For your next dinner party, if low carb is still the theme, try this out!

 

Grilled Eggplant Rollatini
with Ground Turkey and Kale

(recipe serving size – 16 rollatini)

For the sauté:

1 tb olive oil

1 tb butter

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

Sauté onion and pepper in butter and olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Season with spices and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

For the turkey and kale:

1 1/4 lb ground turkey

28 oz diced tomatoes

2 packed cups of kale, chopped

15 oz low fat ricotta cheese

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

Raise heat to medium-high. Add the ground turkey, pepper, 1 tsp of salt and 1 clove of minced garlic. Brown for 2-3 minutes until cooked almost all the way through, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add the diced tomatoes, dried herbs and the 2nd clove of minced garlic. Lower to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Uncover and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the kale to sauce and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Scoop the turkey and kale mixture out of the pan, pressing as much liquid as possible in the process. Reserve the juice in a separate bowl.

Place the turkey and kale mixture into a large bowl. Fold in the ricotta cheese and 1 tsp of salt and refrigerate for 1 hour until content is cool.

For the red sauce:

28 oz crushed tomatoes

Leftover drippings from turkey and kale mixture

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tb olive oil

1 tb butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tb fresh basil, chopped

Remove the additional sauce left behind from the turkey and kale mixture and place in a bowl. Wipe out pan and return to medium to medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt, crushed red pepper, the dried basil, thyme and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, drippings, 1 tsp of salt, cracked black pepper and oregano and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the fresh basil and simmer for another 2 minutes.

For the eggplant:

3 eggplants (roughly 4 lbs), sliced lengthwise into 16 1/4-inch slices

1 tb canola oil

Brush grill pan with oil. Grill slices of eggplant for 1-2 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with salt once removed from the pan. Cover with aluminum foil to allow steam to soften eggplant and to cool enough to handle.

Bringing it all together:

16 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 16 1/4-inch slices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread a layer of sauce along the bottom of a baking dish. Scoop 1/4 cup of turkey and kale mixture onto eggplant, smearing it across the eggplant evenly. Roll the eggplant from the narrow side first. Place into a baking dish, thick side down. Drizzle more sauce across each rollatini.

Place 1 slice of fresh mozzarella atop each rollatini. Bake for 15-20 minutes uncovered on the center rack, until the cheese is melted and the rollatini is heated completely through.

Turn your oven setting to broil and broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese has slightly browned.

Serve while hot.

Creative liberties:

  • For all of the vegetarians out there: this dish can easily be modified to fit your dietary preferences. Simply omit the ground turkey all together. Sauté your kale in a little olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and fresh garlic. Once the kale had become tender and has softened, remove the kale from the heat and allow it to cool. Press and drain any excess liquid from the greens and combine the vegetable with 32 ounces of ricotta cheese. Season the ricotta with a bit of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste along with some fresh herbs and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • For a vegan approach: instead of ricotta cheese, blend 32 ounces of firm ricotta in a food processor. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh garlic and fresh herbs and continue with the same steps as above. If you are able to find vegan parmesan, add some of that to the tofu mixture. Or go completely veggie and load your rollatini with all greens!

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