Soft and Sharp Aubergine Involtini

Nigella Lawson gives aubergine wrapped parcels from southern Italy a sun-kissed Greek twist
By Nigella Lawson
Soft and Sharp Aubergine Involtini
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1.1666666666666667 hours 10 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus steeping
  • Effort: easy


For the sauce

  • 1 onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 0.5 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for painting the aubergines
  • 3 tins canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinches salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 aubergines

For the stuffing

  • 100 g bulgur wheat
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 350 ml water, boiling
  • 50 g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • 200 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large spring onion, or 2 thin, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp capers, (drained of vinegar)
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 pinches cinnamon

For the topping

  • 75 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 dashes of olive oil
  • 1 pinches dried oregano

Tips and Suggestions

I often make a southern Italian dish of involtini - aubergines, sliced thinly, griddled, cooled and then wrapped around a mixture of basil, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, provolone and parmesan, bound with egg, then baked in tomato sauce dotted with mozzarella. It's fiddly, but not difficult and perfect for those times when you have the desire for a bit of slow pottering about in the kitchen. It also happens to be an incredibly useful standby for vile meat eaters like me who want to have something for a vegetarian at a dinner party or whatever.

I've still called this involtini, although in truth there is nothing Italian about its component parts. The flavours are more Greek in nature: sharp feta, which perfectly offsets the soft sweetness of the aubergines; and oregano, which is, dried and aromatic, the herb of the islands. It also occurred to me that using a dried herb made this a useful, year-round regular. In fact, it was my vegetarian option at my Christmas lunch last year.

I tend to do this in stages: the tomato sauce and griddle aubergines one day; the stuffing, wrapping and baking the next. And I love it at room temperature the next day, too.


1. Peel and roughly chop the onion and press on the garlic to loosen the skin. Remove it and then sling, onion, garlic and dried oregano to a food processor and blitz to a pulp.

2. Cook in a deep, generous-sized pan (with a lid) in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, over medium to low heat, until softened - about 7 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, stir well, cover and turn down the heat, and let cook for about 20 minutes, checking often to see that the sauce is not bubbling too vociferously (and therefore sticking or drying out, or indeed both).

4. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, or maybe a pinch more sugar if you feel it needs it, then stir again, adding the extra virgin olive oil, and take off the heat, but keep the cover on. Leave till you need it.

5. Cut the aubergines in thinnish slices lengthwise and chuck away the two skin covered edges: you need to be able to roll the aubergine lengths up later and so you need the full extent. It may sound wasteful, but I'm happy if I get 4 - 5 good slices per aubergine.

6. Put some oil into a bowl and using a pastry brush, paint each slice generously with the oil. Then cook them on a hot griddle until bronzed, striped without and tender within. Or you can dispense with all the painting procedure and just fry the aubergine slices in a pan filled to about half a centimetre's depth of olive oil. In either case, remove the cooked slices to sheets of kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.

7. When cool, you can either begin the stuffing and rolling, or set them aside until you want to. If I'm doing this in advance, I line a dish with baking parchment, arrange a layer of aubergine slices on top, then cover with baking parchment, then another layer of aubergines and so on, until I've packed them all away.

8. I tend to stuff the aubergines shortly before cooking them, measure the bulgar wheat into a bowl, add the dried oregano, pour over the water and cover with a plate, leave the bulgar wheat to steep for 30 minutes.

9. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Get out an ovenproof dish into which the involtini will fit snugly (I use a le Creuset one measuring 30cm by 21cm) and oil it lightly.

10. When the bulgar wheat has had it's time, pour it into a large sieve and press down to remove excess water. Leave for a few minutes till it's cooled a little and then decant to a large bowl.

11. Add about two thirds of the chopped pistachios (you just need to leave some for sprinkling on when serving), the crumbled feta, minced garlic, spring onions and capers. Stir to mix, but don't be too heavy handed about it: a few goes with a fork should be enough to combine everything.

12. Beat the egg with the cinnamon and fork this in, too. I find it easier after that's done, just to weigh in with my hands, squeezing everything together so you've got a cohesive knobbly stuffing in front of you.

13. Get out the aubergines and, one by one, place them in front of you, stalk end at the top, bulbous bottom nearest you. Add a dollop of stuffing at the bottom and roll up lengthwise away from you and put each fat little bundle in the oiled dish as you go.

14. When they're all sitting there snuggly, pour over the tomato sauce, scatter over the crumbled feta, drizzle with oil and then sprinkle over a little dried oregano and cook for 30 minutes.

15. Remove from the oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving: this shouldn't be piping hot. Scatter with remaining pistachios before bringing it to the table.

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