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Eat This Now: Eggplant “Meatballs” With Marinara Sauce

With the weather cooling, we’re looking at heartier dishes — like these vegetarian meatballs from certified holistic health counselor and cookbook author Pamela Salzman.


Eggplant “Meatballs”

Makes about 24

2 Tbsp unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1½ lbs eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-in cubes (about 8 c)
¼ c water
1 c grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
½ c fresh Italian parsley leaves and tender stems, chopped
¼ c fresh basil, chopped
4 eggs, beaten (you can use 2-4 eggs, but I like to use 4 for extra protein and to hold the meatballs together better)
1½ c dried breadcrumbs (you can use 1 c, but the meatballs will be much softer)
1/8 tsp of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper
½ recipe, or 3 c, of homemade sauce (recipe below)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Warm olive oil and sauté garlic until just fragrant and barely starting to lightly brown, about 30 seconds. Add eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover the skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, if you have time.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

3. Place the eggplant mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed—or just do this on a cutting board with a knife.

4. Transfer eggplant to a large mixing bowl and add cheese, parsley, basil, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture well to combine (use your hands or a wooden spoon). The mixture can be refrigerated at this point, covered for up to a day. It is easier to roll into meatballs when the mixture is cooled down. (If doing so, preheat the oven 30 minutes before baking the meatballs.)

5. Roll mixture into 1½-in balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until firm on the outside and light brown underneath.

6. Transfer meatballs to a large saucepan with marinara sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Notes: You can add crushed red pepper with the garlic to add some heat. You can also shape these into patties for burgers. If fresh basil isn’t available, add a few dashes of dried basil and dried oregano.

Marinara Sauce

Makes about 6 cups

¼ c unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 2 28-ounce containers of crushed tomatoes
1 7-oz jar of tomato paste (for a richer, thicker sauce)
Sea salt
A few leaves (a small handful) of fresh basil, thinly sliced*

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste (if using) with 2 generous pinches of sea salt and bring to a simmer. Cover the sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

3. Puree about half the sauce with an immersion blender or pass through a food mill. (You can also blend half the sauce in a blender or food processor.) Put the sauce back into the saucepan.

4. Add the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Note: If fresh basil isn’t available, you can add a few dashes of dried basil and dried oregano.

For more recipes from Pamela Salzman, go to pamelasalzman.com. To buy her book, Kitchen Matters, go to amazon.com.

Photo: Amy Neunsinger

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