Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni: A Healthier Meat-Free + Gluten-Free Comfort Food

This eggplant cannelloni is simply amazing (I mean, really amazing).

Oblique view of a casserole made of eggplant replacing cannelloni noodles along with kale, marinara, and ricotta cheese.

I feel like most of you have your eyebrows knit all the way down to your nose in distrust right now. Why would I take a perfectly delicious, adorably large noodle that is stuffed with all sorts of creamy goodness and replace it with eggplant?

Eggplant! Of all things.

Ricotta, kale, chopped red peppers and rosemary being blended in a glass mixing bowl

Well, I’m not really sure why I decided to do this. But I was inspired by another recipe I saw (I can’t remember where, now) and I am now a believer. I believe that eggplant, oddly shaped and purple as it is, is a perfectly decent if not entirely equivalent noodle replacement for cannelloni.

Unbaked Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni rolls in a white, porcelain baking dish surrounded by red marinara sauce.

There, I’ve said it. Eggplant = Noodle. I’ve made a few eggplant dishes in my day, like my Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta and my Marinara Stuffed Roasted Eggplant. I have honestly never had any that tasted bitter. I think modern varieties have had all the bitterness selected out of it, so it’s really not a concern any more. If you’ve been scared to try it, I say give it a go.

Close up of Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni rolls.

Because of the whole eggplant thing, I decided to go pretty traditional on the rest of these with a creamy ricotta filling with wilted spinach and roasted red peppers. But then I realized I was out of spinach, and kale was my only option.

Top down view of unbaked Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni rolls in a white, ceramic casserole dish. Red marinara sauce has been spread on top.

The kale was a WIN. Where spinach gets more bitter with cooking, in my opinion, kale actually loses its bitterness. It’s also a bit salty and has more chew, even after sauteing for a while. I felt like it really complimented the eggplant, but didn’t give up that simple, traditional flavor at all.

Close up of a stainless measuring cup full of freshly grated Parmesan cheese sitting on a blue and white dish towel.

Making these cute little rolls is actually pretty simple. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes.
  2. Sautee kale.
  3. Combine kale, ricotta, and red peppers.
  4. Make rolls, then bake!

All in all you should be done in under an hour – not quite a weeknight meal, but doable if you’ve somehow got a little extra time on your hands.

Top down view of gluten-free Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni recipe in a white ceramic casserole dish. Fully baked with freshly grated Parmesan cheese grated on top.

Usually, when there is a lunch portion left over from dinner, I’ll be the one who eats it for lunch the next day. AJ likes his PB&J for lunch. But these? Nope, they went to work with AJ. I’ll take that as a testament to their tastiness.

Top down view of an overhead shot of a batch of gluten-free vegetarian Eggplant Kale Ricotta and Cannelloni Rolls.

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Close up oblique view of a prepared Vegetarian Gluten-free Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni Recipe

Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x



This eggplant cannelloni recipe is just like the real thing – just a little healthier! Filled with a kale, roasted red pepper, and ricotta filling, these are sure to please.


  • 2 medium Italian eggplants
  • spray oil
  • 425g tub of low-fat ricotta
  • 5 oz chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 cups or 1 24-oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Heat your oven to 375°F. Generously spray a baking sheet (or two) with spray oil.
  2. Slice the eggplants into 1 cm slices and place on the baking sheet without overlapping. Generously oil the slices, flip, and oil the other side.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip each of the slices over. Cook another 10 minutes or so until cooked and starting to turn golden. Remove and let cool for about 5 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
  4. While the eggplant slices bake, sautee the chopped kale over medium high heat for about 5-6 minutes, until wilted.
  5. Combine the ricotta, kale, chopped red peppers and rosemary in a large bowl and mix until everything is evenly distributed. Salt to taste.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara sauce into the bottom of an 11×13″ baking dish.
  7. Place about 1.5 tablespoons (I didn’t measure this, just go with your gut) onto the cut end of an eggplant slice and roll it up. The ends should meet and overlap a bit. Place into the baking dish and repeat until all the eggplant slices are used or your run out of space.
  8. Top the rolls with another bit of marinara, then pop it in the oven and cook for another 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.
  9. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.


– Depending on the size of your eggplant, you may have a bit of extra filling. Use it a dip with some pita bread!
– If you have extra rolls altogether, you can bake them separately or just fridge them and heat them in the microwave the next day. They’re just as good!

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 50 mins
  • Category: Casserole
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: vegetarian, casserole, eggplant, kale, ricotta, cannelloni

If you’ve tried this recipe and love it, then please rate it in the comments below!

And if this tingles your taste buds, these should hit the spot as well:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on July 15th, 2015. Last updated: January 1, 2020 at 6:29 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

7 thoughts on “Eggplant, Kale & Ricotta Cannelloni: A Healthier Meat-Free + Gluten-Free Comfort Food”

  1. I absolutely love this dish. All of these ingredients are some of my favorites. This is very similar to an Eggplant Involtini.

    • Justin – how interesting! I does look really similar! Just no mozzarella. I didn’t even know that 🙂 If you give it a shot lot me know how it turns out for you!

  2. Such a great idea to use the eggplant in place of pasta, Raquel! I love all of the flavors you have going on in this delicious vegetarian meal. 🙂


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