My grandmother's meatballs were made with ground beef, pork and veal, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, herbs and parmesan. They were fried before going in the sauce and the inside was always perfectly tender - something I've never quite been able to achieve. She insisted, as I'm told most Italian grandmothers do, that the meatballs be mixed only with the hands. The eggplant meatballs are made with most of the same ingredients, but replacing the meat with eggplant. This recipe was posted on the Small Bites Blog a couple of months ago, and came from a lady named Mariann Raftery. I've made it a few times and have adapted it by grating the eggplant (which reduces the boiling time) and also by using combinations of zucchini and eggplant together, or romano cheese instead of parmesan.
Mariann's Eggplant Meatballs
1 large eggplant
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup breadcrumbs, homemade or canned
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, wash, peel and cube eggplant. Boil eggplant cubes for 30 minutes to an hour until the eggplant is cooked through, and soft. Drain eggplant well and let cool. Place in a large bowl. Place the chopped onions and garlic in a small microwave dish and microwave to soften up for a minute. Add to the eggplant. Then add egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
Mix everything together with a wooden spoon at first. Then switch to your hands for this is the only real way to make eggplant meatballs. This is really were the feel of the mixture is determined. If you feel the eggplant mixture is too mushy, add exra breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture is a consistency you can work with to make balls. Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a large frying pan. Heat until shimmering but not smoking.
Form eggplant mixture into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls. (You might need to oil your hands to keep the mixture from sticking to your palms.) Place into the hot oil and fry until brown on all sides and eggplant is cooked all the way through. Place on paper towels to drain. Serve with tomato sauce on the side for dipping. ENJOY! - The meatless meatball!