These eggplant meatballs are the perfect accompaniment to a large bowl of pasta (and making vegetarian meatballs means everyone can join in on a single meal!)
Who doesn’t love a giant bowl of fresh pasta? It’s a classic family meal that takes no time to put together and just about everyone enjoys. It’s even quite easy to make a couple different noodles (gluten-free, anyone?) and set out the sauce separately for everyone to make their own perfect sauce-to-noodle-ratio. To make the meal heartier, why not add meatballs?
This eggplant recipe has lots of traditional Italian flavor, making it a perfect substitute to meat-based items. Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike will enjoy the classic taste and the texture is nice and chunky. I love to keep a batch of these on hand ready to serve for quick dinners!
Ingredients for Eggplant Meatballs
Super easy here, and the same ingredients you would add to a classic beef and veal recipe!
- Eggplant: This veggie has just enough “chew” when roasted to give you the perfect meaty texture. Plus, eggplant is a healthy vegetable that’s packed with fiber to keep you full!
- Bread Crumbs: Buy them or make your own, but I recommend using a seasoned variety to add flavor!
- Parmesan Cheese: Another classic Italian flavor, this adds some oomph.
- Eggs: We need these to bind everything together! They work well with the cheese and bread crumbs to ensure your meatballs don’t fall apart.
These aubergine meatballs are a vegetarian meat-substitute but not vegan. I haven’t found the perfect egg substitute that still gives a great meatball texture. You can try using a dairy-free cheese and gluten-free bread crumbs if you need those alterations, but you’ll want to keep the eggs in.
How to make Vegetable Meatballs
Italian eggplant meatballs take a bit of time, but what classic Italian dish doesn’t?
Step 1: Roast
Prick your eggplant all over with a fork, to ensure the steam escapes while roasting. You want the eggplant to be very soft and the skin should be blistered when it’s done. This can be as long as 45 minutes, and you’ll want to rotate it a few times for even cooking.
What type of eggplant should you use?
The classic Italian eggplant is best here (it’s what I use in the pictures), but you can use just about any type of eggplant you have on hand.
Step 2: Mash
Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove the peel and add the flesh to a large bowl. Mash it up with a potato masher, leaving some larger chunks for great texture.
Step 3: Stir
Add remaining ingredients to the bowl of mashed eggplant and stir to combine well. Next up, give it a chill in the fridge for a good 30 minutes. This will make it easier to form into meatball shapes.
Step 4: Roll
Roll your mixture into the perfect meatballs! Depending on how big your eggplant was and the size of your meatballs will determine how many you make. I aim for about 2 dozen. If it’s too sticky to work with, add in a touch of flour. Place the rolled meatballs on a parchment lined sheet.
Step 5: Bake
Bake the meatballs until they are firm to the touch and no longer “wet” inside. You might need to cut one open to check things out.
Step 6: Sauté
If you’re enjoying these meatballs on their own, go ahead and give them a quick sauté in some oil. This will make them brown and crispy on the outside. It’s totally optional to do this if you’re serving them in a sauce.
Make Ahead: These do take a bit of time, start to finish, so feel free to make them ahead. You can roll them and set the entire sheet in the fridge to chill before baking them up later on. You may need to add a couple minutes to heat them through.
Sauce it Up: Choose your favorite Alfredo or marinara sauce and serve these babies over your choice of pasta.
Sandwich it In: Add these in a hoagie roll with your favorite cheese and run them through the boiler for a delightful dish.
Vegetarian meatballs pair nicely with all sorts of pasta dishes! Don’t forget to make some garlic bread on the side.
- Creamy Pumpkin Pasta is begging for some crispy meatballs on top.
- Fresh Tomato Marinara can bubble away on the stove while the meatballs cook. Are you drooling yet?
- Zucchini Corn Salad is a fun option. Serve up a cold salad next to freshly sautéed meatballs for the ultimate combo.
- 2 lbs eggplant about 2 medium eggplants
- 2 cups Italian bread crumbs 240 g
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese 57 g
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tsp salt
- Roast: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Prick the eggplants all over with a fork. Set on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, flipping the eggplant a few times during cooking. It's finished when it's very soft and the skin is blistered. Remove eggplant from oven and turn oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Mash: Let eggplant cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin. Transfer to a bowl and use a potato masher to mash it into a chunky paste (some larger eggplant chunks are okay, they add texture to the meatballs).
- Stir: To the bowl of mashed eggplant add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for at least 30 minutes (this will make rolling easier).
- Roll: Roll mixture evenly into 20 to 24 meatballs. If the dough is too sticky to roll, you can add a dash more breadcrumbs or some flour. Set finished eggplant meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake: Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until firm and cooked through (split one open to make sure it's not too moist on the inside still).
- Saute (Optional): For an optional finish, saute the cooked meatballs over high heat with a splash of oil until golden brown and crispy. This step is best if you're eating the meatballs on their own. If enjoying them with marinara or incorporating them into a dish, you can skip this step!
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