Let me start off by saying this is not a betrayal of classic meatballs. These beauties are truly and undeniably delicious, plus they’re easy to make. You won’t miss the meat, I promise.
These eggplant and white bean ‘meatballs’ are baked full of deliciousness – with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, fragrant pressed garlic and loads of fresh flat-leaf parsley. Their texture is soft, fork-tender with a moist interior, like a meatball should be.
Eggplant and White Bean “Meatballs”
Yield: 11-12 “meatballs”
1 medium eggplant (about 12 to 14 ounces) (Food scales are our friend)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canned white beans, such as cannellini or navy – rinsed and smashed with a fork
1 large clove garlic, very finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano and/or Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling.
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups Tomato-Basil or Marinara Sauce (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place the eggplant on top. Use a fork to prick the eggplant 4 times, then place it in the oven and roast until it has completely softened and a paring knife easily slips into the center, about 50 minutes.
Leave the oven on.
Cool the eggplant for 15-20 minutes.
Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh (discard the skin). Roughly chop the eggplant pulp and place it in a medium bowl. Stir in the egg and beans. Then add the garlic, parsley, grated cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine, then mix in the breadcrumbs, until fully combined.
Again, line the rimmed baking sheet with a clean sheet of parchment and lightly mist it with cooking spray. Shape the eggplant mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball (2 tablespoons per ball; I got 11). Place them on the prepared baking sheet and lightly mist the top of the balls with spray. Bake until golden brown and firm- about 20 minutes.
While the meatballs cook, warm the marinara sauce in a small saucepan. Remove the meatballs from the oven, and add to the simmering pot of sauce. Allow a few minutes for the ‘meatballs’ to soak it in. Sprinkle some grated cheese and/or mozzarella on top and serve on their own or with pasta.