I used the eggplant meatball two ways. One as eggplant parm with mozzarella, basil and a fresh marina sauce and the other was with my red pepper coulis, posted in a previous post with my Fried Green Tomatoes.
Based on reviews from my hubby and several of the neighbors (I have now turned them into taste testing guinea pigs as well), everyone’s favorite it the Eggplant Parm and I’ve been requested to make these again paired with fresh pasta. One thing no one missed was the meat in these because they had the same consistency of a meatball made with meat.
It really is a simple recipe with very few ingredients. I did slice and grill the eggplant and garlic before using them to give them more flavor and the cooked texture worked well as the binder in the “meatballs” as well, so no eggs. I also tried chopping the cooked eggplant in the food processor but it just seemed to mangle them, so use a good sharp knife and put a fine chop on the slices.
For those of you who don’t know how to pick out the perfect eggplant (because so many on the grocery store shelves are not worth buying), try to get unblemished ones that are still shiny in color and heavy in weight. The longer eggplant sits on the shelf, the more water it loses and becomes spongy. You want beautiful firm, unbruised ones for the best flavors and taste. Don’t be afraid to ask for new ones to be brought out from the cooler! I have to admit some of the stockers at my favorite store probably hate me cause I always ask for fresh ones to be brought from the back.
Just like with regular meatballs, you don’t want to over-mix the eggplant mix and don’t over pack them. Do just enough mixing to get all the ingredients to sticking together and then work on forming your balls.
For your sauces, you can make a quick and easy marina out of canned tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, salt and pepper or use a jar of your favorite store-bought one. If you want to try the red pepper coulis, you can find the recipe here. The ones with the roasted red pepper coulis were good as well, but I also liked the Eggplant Parm one better as well. The flavors just blended a bit better. Over all, the eggplant meatball is a hit and going to make a regular appearance in our house and around our building and my husband’s work.
3 large eggplants, sliced and roasted
4 large roasted garlic cloves, mashed and minced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, finely grated
3/4 to 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
Finely chop the peeled roasted eggplant slices and add to a large bowl with the garlic, basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Add about half the bread crumbs and lightly mix, adding more bread crumbs as needed until you reach a good stickiness for forming the meatballs.
Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Use a small ice cream scoop or form balls by hand, making them about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Fry meatballs in batches in the olive oil, changing out the oil as necessary between batches. Burnt oil or oil with a lot of floating stuff will cause adverse flavors in your meatballs so don’t be afraid to change often. Do not over crowd the pan or your balls with cook to slowly causing them to become oil soaked and not brown properly.
You could also bake these but I prefer the flavoring the frying in olive oil adds to the balls. Turn the balls in the skillet until brown on each side, being careful not to overcook because it will dry out your balls. Drain on paper towels when finished to remove excess oil.
Serve with sauce of your choice as an appetizer, with pasta or even in a meatball sandwich.
Makes about 2 dozen.
More eggplant and meatball recipes to entice you with: