These meatless “meatballs” are the perfect offering when you are looking for something a bit lighter than the standard fare. And if you are serving dinner to a crowd, how great are these for the vegetarians in the group? You can actually offer them spaghetti and “meatballs.” I confess …the texture is very different. These guys are softer, more tender. And, of course, lighter. But wait until you check out the flavor factor. So yummy …like biting into eggplant parmesan! And you can make them gluten-free by switching out the panko breadcrumbs with your gluten-free version.
Let’s start out by mincing the garlic and cubing the eggplant which, by the way, doesn’t even have to be peeled. The minced garlic is sautéed in olive oil for just a few minutes then the eggplant is added to the skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat until the eggplant is tender …maybe about 10 minutes.
If the cooked eggplant is sitting in excessive moisture, give it a quick drain. It is then placed in the bowl of a food processor and pulsed just a few times …just enough to give it a rough chop. Do not puree it. It is then poured into a medium-to-large bowl along with the panko breadcrumbs, grated cheese, chopped fresh herbs, and egg. Season the mixture to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
The original recipe for this comes from Skinnytaste, where you are directed to use Pecorino Romano cheese. If that is what you prefer, that would also be delicious. I switched it over to the Parmesan cheese since it is less salty than the Romano cheese …the whole sodium intake thing is something we watch closely in my household.
It all gets mixed up so that all of the ingredients are well combined. The texture will be similar to that of homemade bread stuffing …even a little softer. Form the mixture into small “meatballs” each measuring about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. If you use a food scale while cooking, each “meatball” should weigh in at around 1-ounce. You will end up with 20 to 24 balls when finished.
After a brief stint of about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, the eggplant parmesan “meatballs” are cooked. They should be firm to the touch with slight browning on the bottom.
All that’s left to do is to heat up your marinara sauce and then let these guys hang out in the sauce until the pasta is ready. Or maybe you’d prefer to serve them on their own as an appetizer …just be sure to include some crusty bread.
eggplant parmesan "meatballs"
Adapted from Skinnytaste
Imagine eggplant parmesan rolled into a tasty "meatball" ...the perfect vegetarian topping to your next bowl of spaghetti.
- cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/4 pounds unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3/4 cups panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free panko breadcrumbs)
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus extra leaves for garnish)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 cups marinara sauce (more if serving over pasta)
Heat the oven to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Place the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the minced garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with the salt & pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Do not puree.
Transfer to a large bowl. Add the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, and beaten egg to the eggplant. Season to taste with additional salt & pepper, if desired.
Form the eggplant mixture into 20 to 24 balls, each weighing about 1 ounce, rolling tightly and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet until warm. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with fresh basil leaves and serve as an appetizer or over pasta.
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