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Eggplant “Meatballs” and Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce

You'll never miss the meat. These hearty, tasty meatballs are perfect for a meatless meal.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Eggplant “Meatballs”

  • 1 1/2 pounds of eggplant peeled and cubed into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of Panko Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons of All-Purpose Flour
  • 2/3 cup of freshly-grated Locatelli Brand Pecorino Romano Cheese plus extra for serving.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons of freshly chopped basil
  • 2 Tablespooons of freshly chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil EVOO, plus more for brushing baking sheet
  • 3/4 cup of water

Quick and easy marinara sauce

  • 1 can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 4 or more basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 pound of pasta of choice*
  • *make sure to retain a cup of reserved salted pasta water to add to the pasta and sauce.

Instructions
 

  • Add one tablespoon of EVOO to a large skillet or medium size saucepan, add the eggplant, stir around to coat, then add water along with a pinch of salt, stir well, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 20 minutes or until the eggplant really softens. Remove to a shallow plate and allow to cool (to expedite the process, sometimes I put it in the freezer for 10 minutes).
  • In a large bowl, add the cooked and cooled eggplant, breadcrumbs, panko, basil, parsley, garlic, Locatelli cheese, flour, and pinch of salt. Using your clean hands, mix well until fully combined and then cover the mixture and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Here, you may play around with the quantity of bread crumbs/panko in the mixutre depending on how moist it feels when you start mixing. If the mixture seems too wet, add more, up to 1/3 cup of either breadcrumbs or panko, until the mixture thickens. Depending on how much moisture is left in the eggplant, it can be a little looser so adding more breadcrumbs will cure it.
  • At this point, you can either preheat your oven to 375°F to bake them on a prepared baking sheet brushed with EVOO and lined with parchment paper or prepare to fry them.
  • With gloves, grease your hands in a little EVOO with the rolling of each ball so the mixture does not stick and roll all the balls (a little larger than a golf ball is what I prefer).
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway.
  • If frying, I like to fry in grapeseed, vegetable or canola oil in a deep skillet with ample room in between each ball. Fry approximately 3 minutes on each side until brown on each side. Careful not to over-tong or over touch them or they will fall apart.
  • Carefully spoon the cooked marinara sauce on top of the eggplant balls, sprinkle some Locatelli Brand Pecorino Romano extra cheese on top and serve with pasta, if desired.

Directions for marinara sauce:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan over low to medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown, careful not to burn, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  • In a saucepan, over medium heat, add the can of crushed tomatoes and transfer the garlic and oil into the saucepan. Add the salt and pepper. Cook approximately 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the basil toward the end of cooking.
Keyword meatless Mondays, vegetable meatballs