I’m not a vegetarian, but I do love vegetables.  No meat doesn’t have to mean no flavor.  With the meaty qualities of eggplant and mushroom, you won’t even miss the meat in this twist on a classic.

Eggplant “Meat”balls

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded or diced finely
  • ½ medium white onion, diced finely
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs or panko crumbs (more if needed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

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Directions:

After preparing your vegetables, add ¼ cup of oil to a large skillet.  Turn the heat to medium and let the oil get hot.

Add the minced garlic and let it brown for a minute or two until it is golden in color.

Add the eggplant to the skillet, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to soften and darken.  Add a little salt and pepper.

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Add the water to the skillet, cover and turn down to low.  Let the eggplant and garlic mixture steam for 20 minutes.  When it is finished, you should be able to easily mash the eggplant with a masher or the back of a wooden spoon.

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Remove the eggplant from the heat and let cool in a large bowl.

Clean the large skillet and then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Set heat to medium.

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When the oil is hot, add the onions and carrots and salt and pepper to taste.  Let these cook down for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped mushrooms and stir.  The mushrooms will release water as they cook.  Keep browning the vegetables until the water released by the mushrooms has fully evaporated.  Remove from heat and allow it to cool for several minutes before adding to the eggplant.

When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, add the rest of the ingredients along with a little bit more salt and pepper.  Mix them well.  Place the mix into the refrigerator and let cool for at least half an hour.  It will be even better if you can let them sit overnight!  This step really helps develop the flavors!

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When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  At this stage you should be able to roll the mixture into balls.  If it is too loose, add breadcrumbs.  Roll the meatballs into their desired size.  If you have a lot more than you can eat right now, freeze them raw on a baking sheet and then toss into a freezer-safe bag.  Remove when you want to use them and bake them as follows straight from the freezer.

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Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes unless you are adding them to a tomato sauce.  (I made a double batch of this recipe from the New York Times Cooking to keep it really simple and traditional).  If you are, bake them for 20 minutes then remove them and immediately toss them into the sauce and let it simmer for another 20 minutes.  The eggplant “meat” balls will absorb the sauce and it will really enhance the flavor.

Serve this over spaghetti, zoodles, as a meatball sub, over rice or over crusty garlic bread!  This recipe is so good that eggplant haters will find themselves digging in!

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