Domenica Marchetti's Eggplant & Porcini "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

By Genius Recipes
September 25, 2018
27 Comments


Makes: 20 meatballs
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 15 min

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • Boiling water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 4 small garlic cloves, finely grated
  • Two 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes, pureed with their juices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups fresh bread crumbs (pulsed in a food processor from from 6 ounces stale, crustless country bread)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • All-purpose flour, for coating
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Crusty bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and set it on a baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven until very soft and collapsed, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and let cool completely. If any excess liquid has collected, drain it away. Discard the skin. Break up any especially long and stringy pieces of eggplant into smaller pieces with your fingers.
  2. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and let stand until softened, 30 minutes; drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the porcini to remove any grit. Finely chop the porcini.
  3. In an enameled cast-iron or other heavy, nonreactive pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and half of the garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and pour in the porcini soaking liquid, stopping before reaching the grit; bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened, about 1 hour. Add half of the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Fold the chopped porcini, bread crumbs, eggs, 2 ounces of cheese, parsley and the remaining garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  5. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Form the eggplant mixture into twenty 1 3/4-inch balls, pressing and rolling tightly. Dust the balls with flour and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  6. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Add half of the meatballs at a time and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes (don’t let simmer rapidly or for much longer, or they may start to fall apart). Garnish the meatballs with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread and grated cheese.

More Great Recipes:
Meatball|Italian|Eggplant|Mushroom|Vegetarian|Dinner

Reviews (27) Questions (1)

27 Comments

plotto October 20, 2018
If I haven't fresh bread crumbs, can I use panko? Or are they too dry?
 
tania October 13, 2018
I tried these "meat"balls und they are amazing. But, the 1 hour Cook time is far from the time you actually need...Baking the eggplant take one hour, cooking the sauce an additional hour, refrigatering the meatballs 20 min etc. <br />It took me approx 2,5 hrs in total for this meal.
 
Kristen M. October 17, 2018
Hi Tania, I'm glad you enjoyed the meatballs—it was hard to figure out the cook and prep time here, since so many of these steps can be done at the same time (the eggplant can be roasting while the sauce is simmering, etc.) and, as always, every cook will work through them at different speeds. But I'll increase them to help more cooks be better prepared. Thank you for your feedback.
 
Rosalind P. October 4, 2018
Had to make these without the porcinis. $25 a bag in my grocery. I used some reconstituted "black fungus" from my pantry (purchased at a Chinese market). Added meaty texture but not that gorgeous porcini flavor. Used a few drops of fermented soybean sauce for the umami. These meatballs can take a lot of variation! They're great.<br />
 
Kristen M. October 17, 2018
Nice subs!
 
KMcG September 29, 2018
Any suggestions for dairy-free substitutions? This looks so delicious but, sadly, I can’t have the pecorino.
 
Kristen M. September 30, 2018
Nutritional yeast is a handy sub for cheesy oomph, but there's also so much other flavor going on you might not need anything. You can fry off a mini tester ball first to check and tweak the flavors.
 
KMcG September 30, 2018
I’m not always a fan of nutritional yeast flavor, so will try first without. Thanks!
 
Sheppard October 5, 2018
There are vegan Parmesan options. Some are Bette than others. One from the Vreamery is supposed to be good (www.thevreamery.com)
 
Rosalind P. September 26, 2018
meant to add also: use whole wheat bread...that ups the nutrition but doesn't change the flavors.
 
Rosalind P. September 26, 2018
I love that eggplant is the new shmoo* of the kitchen. (*a very old reference to a comic strip creature that would become ANYTHING you wanted it to become). I would like to up the protein in these delectables. some qinoa? flaxseed? kasha would add protein but has too strong a taste. I'll try qinoa first. Stay tuned.
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
LOVE shmoo. Those all sound like great ideas—have you seen this other quinoa meatball on Food52? https://food52.com/recipes/77763-baked-quinoa-pork-meatballs
 
Rprp September 26, 2018
Haven't...don't use pork bit often substitute beef. Will check it out. Thanks☺
 
Rebecca G. September 26, 2018
Do you think I could bake these instead of frying them?
 
Misfitwife September 26, 2018
I was wondering the same thing. Just not sure they would look as nicely browned and have that crispy outer layer to stand up to the sauce.
 
Rebecca G. September 26, 2018
Maybe if we made sure we added a nice layer of oil to the outside layer? I do this with regular meatballs, I might give it a whirl just to see. A half fried/half baked test.
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
I asked Domenica about this because I knew some people would want the convenience of baking and she hasn't tried it (and neither have I—yet). My gut is that it should work, but you won't get the same deliciously crispy, browned crust. Please let us know if you do try it!
 
Anh September 26, 2018
I have dried shiitake mushrooms in the pantry - can I use them instead of the porcini mushrooms?
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
Absolutely—and I'm so glad you asked. Cook's Illustrated actually found that shiitakes are often half the price, and taste less mushroomy, but more meaty: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6488-mushrooms-porcini-versus-shiitake
 
Susanna September 26, 2018
I’m hesitant to admit this because it’s a personal failing, but I just can’t stand mushrooms. I wonder if there’s another way to up the umami instead? Maybe some minced anchovies? Though technically they wouldn’t be meatless balls, I wouldn’t care...
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
There's already a good amount of umami in the recipe from other sources (cheese, tomatoes, delicious pan-frying browning), but in my opinion, anchovies are almost never a bad idea (I love slipping a few into my tomato sauce). For what it's worth, the mushrooms don't really taste mushroomy—just meaty, so might be worth a try.
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
Thanks to Anh's question above, I also remembered this Cook's Illustrated taste test that showed dried shiitakes tasted less mushroomy and more meaty than porcini (and were cheaper!): https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6488-mushrooms-porcini-versus-shiitake
 
Kate W. September 26, 2018
I’m thinking these might freeze well. Any thoughts?
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
Yes, I think so, but I'd freeze (and reheat) the balls and sauce separately so they don't meld into one—the balls are delicate!
 
Misfitwife September 26, 2018
Okay, I have to admit, when I first saw 'meatless meatball' my thoughts were...why?? But as I read the post I have become intrigued...it's a definite possibility...
 
Jade D. September 26, 2018
I thought the same but watching the video totally changed my mind. I am definitely making these.
 
Kristen M. September 26, 2018
Love hearing that—glad the post and the video helped tip you over the edge! (And kudos to you for not letting "meatless meatball" stop you.)