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Involtini – a pine nut cloaking device

March 23, 2011


I’ve been trying to make vegetarian meals more often so that I don’t have to cook two different things in the evening (my 12-year-old daughter has not eaten meat for about 6 years).   Finding something that will please all and venture outside the core rota of recipes that I serve up regularly is not an easy task.  “Ugh feta” said KP as he saw me preparing the filling before work.  Neither he nor my older daughter like pine nuts (unless buried in pesto) and my younger one has an aversion to aubergines (and quite a long list of other vegetables which is difficult as she is the vegetarian).  Not a natural optimist in some areas of my life, but in the kitchen I refuse to give up.  My sister and I ate everything after all!

An involtini recipe (involta means wrapped in Italian) is in the ‘Meatless Feasts‘ chapter in Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookery book.  I followed the ingredients list fairly closely, retaining the problematic aubergines, feta cheese and pine nuts, but knew that raisins would not be tolerated (and dried tea-leaves mint is abominable).  I sneaked in a chilli to keep everyone happy.  The method and quantities are mine, the former made a lot less time-consuming than Nigella’s (this was written pre-Express days).

Involtini, parsley and lemon

And the verdict; KP forgot about the feta, aubergine was eaten by all (albeit begrudgingly by one) and pine nuts stayed well under the radar.  Clean plates all round.  A success in my book for a mid-week meal and this would be great for a crowd (especially as you could make this in stages and assemble the dish ahead of time, keeping it in the fridge until ready to bake).


Involtini – adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (printable version here)

Serves 4 amply


2 large aubergines cut lengthways into slices about 5 mm thick (makes about 14 slices)
olive oil
1 bottle of passata
1 ball of mozzarella
Stuffing ingredients
100g feta cheese, torn into a few pieces
1 ball mozzarella, roughly chopped
25g parmesan, grated
60g pine nuts
dash of olive oil
5  tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
zest of one lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of juice
half a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
black pepper

Grilled aubergines


Line a grill pan with foil and as you slice the aubergines paint them on both sides with a light coating of olive oil.  Place under a medium grill, turning halfway until they are cooked through (soft) and brown (not burned).  If you need to do them in batches layer them between greaseproof paper to cool.

Put all the stuffing ingredients into a food processor and whizz in bursts until the filling comes together and the pine nuts are as chunky or as smooth as you like.

When the aubergine slices have cooled, lay them one at a time, larger end towards you, on your surface.  Put a generous tablespoonful of filling at the broad end (I give it a pinch to make into a sausage shape).  Then roll up quite tightly and place the rolls into a lightly greased ovenproof dish (seam side down) where they will fit snugly.

Pour over the passata, thinned with a little water (or a home-made tomato sauce), grind over some black pepper and salt, tear up the mozzarella and scatter over the top.  Bake in a preheated oven of 190C for about 30 minutes.  Rest for at least 10 minutes before serving (I think this also reheats well – I had it as a luxurious  lunch the next dat).

Serve with a fresh green salad (bitter leaves such as endive or spinach would go well), some crusty bread and a luscious red super-Tuscan (if you fancy).  ‘Ciao Italia’ is a super round-up of Italian inspired, Nigella inspired recipes at Maison Cupcake.  Sorry, I didn’t fling a silk scarf round my hair and get on the back of a Vespa; you’d take your life in your hands if you did this on Dubai roads (although KP dreams of Vespa ownership since I ‘persuaded’ him against a Harley).  I did find a holiday company where you can tour round Italy on one – Italy by Vespa !

  1. March 23, 2011 6:49 am

    Delicious! Why is it that food lovers are always cursed with a family of fussy eaters? So unfair, but at least it helps make us clever cooks.

  2. March 23, 2011 8:24 am

    Even reading this first thing in the morning whets the appetite and your photos are delicious – another great post by the queen of foodies. Buon appetito.

  3. March 23, 2011 9:29 am

    Oh my, you are braver than I – kudos to you! A vegetarian who only like a couple of veggies, oh dear! Your Involtini look and sounds superb!
    🙂 Mandy

  4. March 23, 2011 12:38 pm

    he he, Sally, this made me laugh 🙂 In our family we have such a particular vegetarian(my sister’s boyfriend) who will eat his vegetables only if they are buried in a decent ammount of cheese, butter or creme fraiche. I am a vegetarian, my sister too, but we are all kind of fruits and vegetables lovers.

    • March 24, 2011 9:27 am

      Yes my meat-eating daughter loves fruit and vegetables. My vegetarian daughter would be happy with peas and apples every day!

  5. March 23, 2011 12:47 pm

    wow the involtini looks superb…i think you shd first show your pics to the family and then dish them out 😛
    tell me about family and fuss!

  6. March 23, 2011 4:01 pm

    This is so creative and beautiful – your family is super lucky.

  7. Sherri Voebel permalink
    March 23, 2011 4:22 pm

    These “Involtini – a pine nut cloaking device” are simply fab. These look absolutely scrumptious and are a delightful addition for any party or platter. The food photography is gorgeous – as usual. Shame on those finicky eaters!

    • March 24, 2011 8:47 am

      Thanks Sherri and Belinda – most kind.

  8. March 24, 2011 12:12 am

    Ah, the clean plate club…I love it! I’m making something very similar for dinner. I love eggplant.

    • March 24, 2011 8:47 am

      So do I Joan – it’s become a mission to get my lot to eat more of it!

  9. March 24, 2011 1:53 am

    I’ve always always meant to make these, I love when I make the time to salt my aubergine as it tastes so much better and improves the texture. Thanks for taking part in Forever Nigella 3!

    • March 24, 2011 8:46 am

      I haven’t done this for a long time – I think modern aubergines are not bitter any more. I’m interested that you think it improves the texture and taste – I might try a comparison next time. Grazie Sarah.

  10. March 24, 2011 9:32 pm

    How can your vegetarian daughter not like so many vegetables….that must be hard going for you. You’re probably glad I’m not your daughter- I hate feta, aubergines and a whole lot of other veggies 🙂

    • March 25, 2011 10:01 am

      You’ve got such a sweet tooth too. I can see you two are going to get along this afternoon!

  11. March 28, 2011 8:32 am

    omg… i love all the ingredients in it… feta, pine nuts, eggplants, tomatoes!!! why couldnt you be in my neighborhood – you wouldnt have to worry abt clean plates when you make this at least 😀

  12. ValerieF (love through the stomach...) permalink
    April 16, 2011 2:03 pm

    H Sallyi, I found you on Food Blogger Connect. Just wanted to pop in and say hi and let you know, as a kid/teen I was vegetarian as well and a super picky non-vegetable eater. It all started to turn around when my mom got tired of cooking separate things for me and frying cheese every evening and told me to just cook for myself. Suddenly I found myself trying to add some more green-and-healthy-looking things. When I moved out I really started trying a lot and eventually even gave up being vegetarian. There are still some things I won’t eat, but they’re from all food groups, not just veggies, and it’s because either I’m allergic or I’ve tried them and just didn’t fancy them. I bet your daughter will come around as well, especially with you making these great looking dishes!

    • April 16, 2011 2:44 pm

      Thanks Valerie – there’s hope then?! Things are improving ….slowly…


  1. Forever Nigella 3 "Ciao Italia" round up |

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