Roasted Eggplant Meatballs
I’m not usually one for a faux meatball: the texture is usually all wrong and flavor bland. That said, this little puppy is darn good. In fact, I wouldn’t even classify it as faux. It stands on its own. Meaty from the mushrooms and eggplant and deliciously herby. And with the added Parmigiano-Reggiano, it’s a mouthful of umami. No meat required.
Yields 8 meatballs
1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (1.25 pounds diced)
8-ounces cremini mushrooms, diced medium
6 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
3 packed tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not pre-grated, grated on a Microplane
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
¾ teaspoon ground fennel
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 large egg, whisked
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Adjust 2 oven racks to the middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put eggplant and mushrooms in a medium bowl and mix in olive oil. Toss or stir to combine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir to combine.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Spread eggplant mushroom mixture onto sheet pans.
Bake for 20 minutes. Stir, rotate pans and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Remove sheet pans from oven and let eggplant and mushrooms cool to room temperature.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Place eggplant mushroom mixture and all additional ingredients in a food processor.
Pulse to combine. The mixture should be well combined and still have some texture (not blended into a paste). Season with additional 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Roll the meatball mixture into equal sized 1.75-inch balls.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until cooked through and beginning to firm up.
Remove sheet pan from the oven and let meatballs rest at room temperature for 5-8 minutes.
Serve with your favorite pasta, marinara sauce and/or pesto in addition to some fresh basil and grated parmigiano-reggiano.