Hi y’all! So here in England-military-world, it’s been another one of those seasons.. those baby booms where it seems like you are first surrounded by pregnant women and then those pregnant women all turn into new moms. Just love those precious squishy babies! In these seasons, my favorite way to show a little love to the new mama’s is to cook up a yummy, comforting meal.. and then use that as a good excuse to see the newest teeny tiny!
When I crave comfort food.. I always want Italian. Cheesy, warm, gooey, saucy, tomato-y deliciousness. The kind that warms you from the inside out. This recipe is one of my go-to’s for a supper that screams comfort food without leaving me feeling like a carb-loaded mess. In this dish, I substitute traditional pasta with thinly sliced eggplant– making a healthier and naturally gluten free Italian meal. Even people a little shy of eggplant have admitted this healthier manicotti is pretty darn delish. All the rich italian flavors (even tastier in my opinion) without the empty carby-calories.. WINNNNING!
It shocks me how many people have never had eggplant. Of course, up until a few years ago I had never eaten this weird purple veg, either… but now we use it in practically every dish we can! No turning back once you fall in love 🙂 It’s a chameleon-like vegetable that sort of soaks up the flavor of whatever it’s in. If you’ve never worked with eggplant, here’s a quick video intro on cutting and salting (Thanks, Martha!)– we’ll use the lengthwise cuts here.
Once you’ve cut your eggplant, arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and salt. Leave to sit while making pesto.
You can buy pesto for this recipe but I PROMISE this is an easy two-minute pesto recipe that makes a TON and is packed with lots of healthy super-green goodness. In your food processor or blender, just throw in mozzarella cheese, basil, parsley, spinach, almonds, parmesan, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, & garlic. Process until smooth. Set pesto mixture aside.
Rinse the salt from eggplant and dry slices by pressing between two paper towels. Arrange half the eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 minutes or until lightly browned and very tender. Repeat broil with remaining eggplant.
Preheat oven to 375°. Now it’s the fun part! Assembling purple rolls of yum. If some pesto needs to be tasted during the process… well, I won’t tell 🙂
Spread 1/2 the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish coated with cooking spray. Place eggplant slices, browned sides down, on a smooth surface– time to FILL! Spoon about 2 tablespoons pesto mixture on each slice (I like placing it near the smaller end and rolling that end first. The amount of filling will vary from 1 to 3 tablespoons depending on the size of eggplant slices). Roll up, starting at short ends; place eggplant rolls, seam sides down, over sauce. Repeat procedure with remaining eggplant and pesto mixture. Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce over eggplant rolls.
Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Top with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melty & slightly browned.
*Fit foodie tip: leftover pesto makes a seriously yummy topping for tomato slices or just tossed with whole grain pasta!
Let me know if you try my Skinny Pesto Eggplant Manicotti! I’d love your feedback. Recipe and 21 day fix counts are below… xoxo
21 DAY FIX BREAKDOWN:
1 GREEN (EGGPLANT, SPINACH)
1 PURPLE (NO SUGAR ADDED MARINARA SAUCE–> CAN COUNT AS GREEN OR PURPLE, REALLY. YOU KNOW, THE WHOLE VEG OR FRUIT DEBATE..)
1 RED (RICOTTA & CREAM CHEESE)
1 BLUE (MOZZ/ PARMESAN/ ALMONDS)
.5 TEASPOON (OLIVE OIL SPRAY)
*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
- ½ cup (2 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella
- 1 cup fresh basil
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- ½ cup spinach leaves
- ¼ cup almonds
- ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fat-free cream cheese
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 (15 oz) container fat-free ricotta cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (medium to large) eggplant, cut lengthwise into thin (1/8 inch) slices
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 2 cups low fat spaghetti sauce, divided
- Arrange eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and salt. Leave to sit while making pesto.
- Pesto: Combine ¼ cup mozzarella cheese and next 9 ingredients (mozzarella cheese through garlic) in a food processor, and process until smooth. Set pesto mixture aside.
- Rinse salt from eggplant and dry slices in a towel. Arrange half the eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 minutes or until lightly browned and very tender. Repeat broil with remaining eggplant.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce in bottom of a 9x13" baking dish coated with cooking spray.
- Place eggplant slices, browned sides down, on a smooth surface; spoon about 2 tablespoons pesto mixture in center of each slice ( amount will vary from 1 to 3 tablespoons depending on size of eggplant slices). Roll up, starting at short ends; place eggplant rolls, seam sides down, over sauce. Repeat procedure with remaining eggplant and pesto mixture. Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce over eggplant rolls.
- Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Top with ¼ cup mozzarella cheese; bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.
- *Leftover pesto makes a seriously yummy topping for tomato slices or just tossed with whole grain pasta!