I have long admired Pamela Salzman for many reasons. Firstly, her food philosophy is real and authentic. She doesn't prescribe to any diet fads and simply endorses eating real unadulterated foods with mainly a plant-based slant. Secondly, as a mom of three, she has meal prep and family friendly foods down to an art. In addition to running her popular cooking classes in LA, she has created a stunning cookbook, Kitchen Matters, which focuses on wholesome and nourishing recipes that are all adaptable to various dietary needs. I am thrilled to share an incredibly delicious recipe from Pamela's book that has already become a favorite in my home. I know that, once you try it out, it will be in heavy rotation in yours too.
I have always been a sucker for turkey meatballs and tomato sauce, but I have yet to really make a vegetarian version that truly fulfills my craving for this home cooked staple - until now. Eggplant "meatballs" with homemade marinara is meaty and filling in all its plant-based glory. This recipe requires minimal ingredients, simple prep, and is the perfect way to use the eggplants that are about to hit your local greenmarket. Just like turkey meatballs, I found that the eggplant equivalent tastes even better the next day, making it a great addition to your meal prep arsenal. If you don't have energy or time to make your own sauce, simply sub in your favorite jarred sauce to go along with the eggplant "meatballs".
makes about 24 "meatballs"
Recipe printed from Pamela Salzman's cookbook Kitchen Matters
- 2 tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes (you should have 8 cups)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 4 large eggs, beaten (you can use 2 to 4 eggs, but Pamela likes to use 4 for extra protein and to better hold the meatballs together)
- 1 1/2 cups regular or GF dried bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (you can use as little as 1 cup, but the meatballs will be much softer)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1/2 recipe or 3 cups of Homemade Marinara (recipe below)
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the garlic in the hot oil until just fragrant and barely starting to lightly brown, about 30 seconds. Add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet. Allow the eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, if you have time.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
- Place the eggplant mixture in a food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Or just chop the eggplant on a cutting board with a knife.
- Transfer the eggplant mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the cheese, parsley, basil, eggs, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir the mixture well to combine, using 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.)
- Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 -inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until firm on the outside and light brown underneath.
- Transfer the meatballs to a large saucepan with marinara sauce and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
*I added chili flakes to both the eggplant and the marinara sauce.
Homemade Marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced, or 3 (18-ounce) or 2 (28-ounce) containers crushed tomatoes
- 1 (7-ounce) jar tomato paste (optional, for a richer, thinker sauce)
- Sea salt
- A few leaves (a small handful) fresh basil, thinly sliced
- In a medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, if using, plus two generous pinches of salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover the sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Puree about half of 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.
- Add the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- The marinara sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Thank you Pamela for all your inspiration and positivity!