Meatballs are kinda of awesome. What’s not awesome is deciding you really don’t want to eat meat anymore, and forgetting that meatballs are sort of included in that category. I needed to find a substitute. One that wouldn’t make me miss my Mom’s beefy ones, which truly, is a nearly impossible feat. When I searched for recipes, most of them seemed to end up using bread crumbs as the base and the idea of eating a bowl of pasta with bread balls on it is just nutritionally unappealing, regardless of how good they might taste.
However, over the holidays I visited my old stomping ground, The Saluda Grade Café, which I once worked at as a waitress, and was pleasantly surprised to see eggplant meatballs had been added to the menu. I took my first taste and could feel the clouds part and the heavens singing – these were what I had been looking for! I begged Kaye, the owner, for the recipe but she wasn’t able to give it to me. I can’t tell you why but trust me that I begged and pleaded to the best of my ability, all to no avail. So instead, I went on a mission.
Oh man, success tastes so good. These meatballs are flavorful and a great addition to a plate of pasta. I also wouldn’t be opposed to using them in meatball sub as well. Or just eating them by themselves on a toothpick. Anything meatball-appropriate will work just fine.
My original plan was to fry these, but at the last minute I decided to bake them. That’s why you see them covered in bread crumbs, since that would have been frying-appropriate, but I’m going to omit that step the next time I make these.
2 large eggplants, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices day-old bread
½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Lay the eggplant out on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes, or until they have turned golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn heat down to 350 degrees F.
Grind the bread slices in the food processor until they’re broken into bread crumbs. Remove about ¼ of the crumbs and set aside. To the processor add in the roasted eggplant and egg and grind together until the mixture becomes a fairly smooth paste. Now add the garlic, cheese and parsley. Pulse to combine. If the mixture is too runny add in more of the additional bread crumbs until it becomes something you can mold.
Form the mixture into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through (I split one open just to test).
Serve as you would normal meatballs: over pasta, in a sub or on a toothpick.