Eggplant Meatballs (meatless) with Pasta

At the age of 5 I decided that I no longer was going to eat meat.  In the late 70’s this was not the most common thing and my family thought I was going to be malnourished.  In fact, they tried everything they could to get me to eat meat.  But I was a stubborn kid and didn’t.  These eggplant meatballs quickly became my favorite. They are a perfect meatless option and I promise you will love them

I usually serve this with pasta as the first course. Then we eat the meatballs with a delicious salad.  It makes the perfect big Sunday family dinner!! 


Eggplant Meatballs and Pasta

(Serves 8)

Basic Tomato Sauce

½ Cup Olive Oil

12 Garlic Cloves

¼ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

4 Cans (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes 

15 Basil Leaves

2 Teaspoons Salt

1 Teaspoon Pepper

1 Pecorino Romano End (Optional)

Eggplant Meatballs

2 lbs. Eggplant - cut into ½ inch pieces with skin on

4 tbsp. Olive Oil, plus more for frying the meatballs

3 Garlic Cloves, taken from the cooked tomato sauce

2 tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped 

1 Cup Bread Crumbs, plain

1 Cup Pecorino, grated, plus more for grating on the meatballs

2 Eggs, beaten 

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp Pepper

⅔ Cup of the Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp. Basil, chopped

1 ½ Cups Ricotta

2 lbs. Pasta 


First, start the sauce. In a saucepan heat up the ½ cup olive oil and 12 cloves of garlic. Simmer on a very low flame.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl, mix the eggplant with 4 tbsp. olive oil and ¼ tsp. salt. Place the eggplant in a single layer on the parchment and bake for 25 minutes. 

While that bakes, slowly sauté the garlic until fork tender. 

Purée 3 cans of tomatoes. I put 1 can at a time in the blender and pulse about 15 times. The fourth can, put in a bowl and crush by hand. 

Raise the heat to medium and add the tomatoes immediately. 

Bring to a simmer (about 10 minutes) and reduce the heat to low. 

Season with salt and pepper. 

Then add in the basil. I like to use my hands to tear the leaves up as I put them in the sauce. 

Next add in the Pecorino cheese end and simmer for about 15 minutes more. 

Boil the pasta water.

When the eggplant is cooked through, remove from the oven and place in a large bowl.  Cool slightly. Roughly mash using potato masher.  Remove three garlic cloves from the sauce and mash.  Add the garlic to the eggplant along with parsley, breadcrumbs, Pecorino, eggs, ½ tsp. salt, pepper, tomato sauce and basil.  

Combine using your hands and form into balls, about 2 tbsp. each.  Coat a large frying pan with olive oil and heat on a low flame. Add in some meatballs and fry for about 6 minutes.  Be sure to gently turn them halfway so they get browned on all sides.  Once the meatballs are cooked, remove, place on paper towels and add in more balls.  

Next coat a large cast iron or oven safe pans with the tomato sauce.  If you do not have one you can use a large Pyrex (baking dish). Add in the meatballs leaving about an inch between the balls.  

Take dollops of the ricotta and place around the balls.  Sprinkle on more Pecorino and place in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes

In the meantime, boil and drain the pasta and combine in the sauce.

Take the meatballs out of the oven, top with more Pecorino and serve with the pasta.

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