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Lilli’s Eggplant Roll-ups

Just for the record let me state that my friend Lilli makes the best eggplant roll-ups ever. She’s known for these delicious morsels and everyone in our Italian chit-chat group always requests them when we have a shared dinner or picnic. You know how certain people just have a “hand” for making certain dishes? Well, that’s Lilli and her eggplant roll-ups. Actually, that’s Lilli and her biscotti too, her almond paste cookies (I must get you that recipe), her meatballs, her on and on and on. The girl from Salerno knows how to cook. I’ve tried photographing these roll-ups at many occasions, but truthfully, the photo always comes out looking like a not-too enticing red blob. That’s what happens when you have poor lighting and everyone is pushing you out of the way, eager to dig into the dish. And trust me when I say that although these were delicious, Lilli has the knack for making them sublime. That’s what comes from years of experience in making a dish until you achieve perfection. Still, I had to try. So I thought I’d try making them myself and taking photos in my kitchen. But again, it’s tough to take good photos when your husband is pushing you and your camera out of the way, eager to dig into the dish. So these photos are the best I can do. I used those thin Japanese eggplants for this dish since that’s what I had growing in my garden, but Lilli uses the traditional and plumper Italian eggplants. Start by slicing them thinly and salting them. Let them sit for an hour or so, then press them with more paper towels to squeeze out the liquid. August 2010 194 What Lilli does next is dip the slices in flour, then in egg before frying in hot oil. She says that renders them lighter. Risking culinary heresy and other crimes that occur when you don’t follow a master’s recipe, I did the opposite and dipped them in egg first, then flour before frying in hot oil. They turned out just fine. I followed the rest of her instructions to the letter, slathering on a bit of tomato sauce, a basil leaf, some mozzarella cheese and some parmesan cheese. August 2010 195 Roll them up, put them in a casserole and top them with more tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Cover them with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 375 degrees or so for about 30 minutes. August 2010 196 Remove the foil and dig in. If you want to save some time, you can make this in steps. the frying really is time-consuming. Lilli fries all the eggplant one day, then assembles and bakes the roll-ups another day. You can also freeze the fried eggplant and thaw it out later when you want to put the whole dish together. On second thought, don’t make this recipe. At the very least, don’t make it for a group gathering. Once you make this for your friends, you’ll be sentenced to making it for every event you attend. Sorry Lilli, but these are sooooo good, and nobody makes these as well as you do.  August 2010 197 Lilli’s Eggplant Roll-Ups Printable Recipe Here (No amounts are given since you have to adjust according to the size of your eggplants). Eggplants, peeled flour egg(s), beaten oil for frying tomato sauce fresh mozzarella cheese parmesan cheese fresh basil leaves Slice the peeled eggplants thinly, maybe 1/8 inch or so. Salt them and let them sit on paper towels for an hour, then squeeze out the water on the eggplants with more paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg, then in the flour. Shake off any excess flour then fry them in hot oil. Drain. Spread a little tomato sauce over each slice of eggplant. Place a fresh basil leaf over the sauce, then a piece or two of fresh mozzarella, followed by a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Roll up the eggplant slices and place them in a casserole, topped with more tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven, covered, for about 30 minutes.

This Post Has 33 Comments
  1. Beautiful beautiful! Mozerella is good. But for an alternative: My friend Lou uses cacio cavallo cheese, which is a provolone type cheese and gives more bite. I think that is more typical to the South, yes?

  2. I am determined to learn to like eggplant. After reading this recipe, I think I would LOVE this and so I am going to set this recipe into the "vegetarian dish" pile. I need to detox from so much grilled meat, and this looks like a great place to start. I chuckled at how you dipped backwards, because I've done that too! Oh, the pictures are plenty enticing. It got my attention!

  3. I am so wishing I had a mandoline now. Since I tried to slice the eggplant without one it was an UH OH. I bought the eggplant to make Ratatouille, but since I was busy and then tired for a few days, I ate half the zucchini and tomatoes…. well, it might end up being an eggplant casserole of 'some' sort now. Maybe a layered version of your friends wonderfl Roll Ups? Okay, I might also have to substitute fresh spinach leaves for the basil as well…. I never have what I need, ever.

  4. I must say you take much better photos while shooing your family away. I'm not so lucky! I point, shoot and eat within seconds. I have five Japanese eggplants sitting on my counter from Farmer's Market. They now have a destiny. The dish looks sublime.

  5. Mmmmm…they look so good, Linda and I bet the sauce is a big part in what really makes them taste so good!

    My sister-in-law makes a Calabrian dish of baby eggplants stuffed with a potato/bread/cheese mixture that is then dipped in egg and fried. As much as I try I can't replicate how good they taste when she makes them!

  6. I can't believe we are both cooking similar dishes on opposites sides of the world! I just posted about a similar recipe but filled with fetta as well. So YUM aren't they? And yes, hard to get a good photo. You did very well!

  7. You're such a rebel to switch up the coating order!

    I can see what you mean about once you make them, folks won't let you NOT make them. These remind me of lasagna rolls, which I love, so I'm thinking they would be good with a bit of ricotta and cheese filling. Actually, however they're made, they'd be good.

  8. Yum… and more yumm…. My sweet husband's family always treats me to a fancy feied eggplant dish from some wonderful Chicago Italian Deli… I CAN"T GET ENOUGH! So…. finding this yumminess is divine… I am sure your try at these tasted delicious. They look amazing, I think I will put them on the weekend menu ♥ – Megan

  9. I love eggplant and am always looking for new and interesting ways to use it. This looks fantastic, Linda. I can understand why it's difficult to get the chance to take a picture. Bookmarked!

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