I love a meatball. In my quest to add plant-based recipes to my diet, I tried making meatballs out of a mixture of eggplant and mushrooms, with great results. I like adding cashews for texture as well as a little protein. These meatball sandwiches taste really indulgent (hello, melted provolone!), but I also love using the eggplant balls on spaghetti with marinara. Even your pickiest meat-eater will be very happy. Promise.
Eggplant “Meat”Ball Sandwiches
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
6 cups (490 g) diced eggplant, peel left on (about 1 medium eggplant)
2 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz (225 g) cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup (60 g) unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup (40 g) panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (25 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg, lightly whisked
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4 kaiser rolls
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) marinara sauce (your favorite store-bought or homemade)
4 slices provolone cheese
4 fresh basil leaves
Pickled banana peppers (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the eggplant in a large bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread out on a prepared baking sheet.
3. Combine the mushrooms and the remaining 1 tsp oil and spread on the second baking sheet. Bake the eggplant and mushrooms for 10 minutes, then stir and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (Reserve one baking sheet with parchment paper to use again to bake the meatballs.)
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (205°C). Pulse the eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large bowl. Pulse the mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse the cashews until coarse and transfer to the bowl. (Processing everything together will make the mixture too mushy; be sure to take the time to process the ingredients one by one.) Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, egg, 1/2 tsp salt, and a little pepper. Stir to combine. Use an ice cream scoop or your hands to scoop the eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange them on the reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.
5. Spread butter onto the kaiser rolls and toast in the oven until lightly golden brown. Toss the eggplant balls with marinara and place 3 on the bottom piece of each roll. Top with provolone and bake until the cheese melts, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and top each with a torn basil leaf and the top roll. Serve with banana peppers and grated Parmesan, if desired.
Find this and more great recipes in Katie Lee Biegel’s new cookbook It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day available March 23.
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