Italian cuisine is one of my favorite to cook and eat, but when switching to plant-based eating I figured my days of Italian grandmother cookery were over. My family loves my traditional meatballs, and I know they have been missing some of our home cooked standards. While researching no meat meatballs, I found that the Sicilians already been doing it for thousands of years, called “Polpette di melanzane” it is basically a way to use eggplant and stale bread to replace meat. I looked at traditional recipes and used a few plant based replacements to make it animal product free. Traditionally they are pan fried, I cooked them in the oven but I did have to use a few teaspoons of oil, but considering the original recipe or the ground meat version, these are a good alternative.
1 large eggplant
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
¼ Cup Fregola, or Israeli cous cous
2 Cups bread crumbs, preferably from stale whole grain bread, I had half a loaf of buckwheat and barley bread that I used.
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
½ tsp. salt
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
¼ Cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. ground flax (to replace two eggs)
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (Original recipe calls for Romano or Pecorino cheese)
2 tsp. oil of choice, I used raw camelina
Pre-heat oven to 375, puncture eggplant with a fork all over, place on a sheet pan, bake 1 hour. In a bowl place bread crumbs, pour boiling water over porcini, let steep 30 minutes, add flax, pour into breadcrumbs, add seasonings. In a pan heat oil over medium heat, add onion and garlic, cook 5 minutes, add fregola, cook 3 more minutes, add to breadcrumbs. Scrape the eggplant out of its skin, add to breadcrumb mixture, using a hand blender, combine until it resembles regular meatball mixture. Chill for 20 minutes or so, shape into 20 meatballs on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, cook 35 minutes. While those bake make marinara.
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 28 oz can Italian tomatoes
2 tomatoes chopped, I got lucky as my friend brought me a bag of her beautiful garden tomatoes today.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful basil, chopped
In a medium sauce pan place everything except basil add ½ Cup water or wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, you can leave it chunky or blend for a smoother texture. Add cooked meatballs to sauce, cook 5 minutes, top with basil,serve over pasta or with a salad. I have found that the Tru Roots ancient grains pasta that is gluten free, is super good and a healthier option, but seriously these meatballs are totally a meal in themselves, if you like eggplant parm…..you will love these!