This past Sunday was the first day of Autumn, and I know what my family was thinking. “Enough with the cherry tomatoes. When are we going to have real gravy and meatballs again on Sundays ??” Is summer really over? Is it really time to start thinking about meals indoors? As much as I hate to see summer end (and believe me, I do), I do get a “cozy” feeling when I think about cooking the hearty meals of autumn and winter. So this past Sunday, the first day of Autumn, I decided to jump right in and make a Sunday sauce ( ragu or gravy to some of us) with meatballs and lots of gravy meat.
You already have my recipe for the sauce and meatballs, taken from my grandmother and mother. You’ll find that recipe under the pasta category, entitled “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti.” But today I want to share with you a recipe for “eggplant meatballs.” This recipe comes from a cookbook entitled “Eat This, It’ll Make You Feel Better,” by Dom DeLuise of all people. My sister gave me this cookbook in 1988 since Dom DeLuise was a favorite comedian in our family, and the title was so funny and true to life, if you’re Italian. Food always makes us feel better. Just as she suspected, the book was hilarious to read, and the recipes were very good. Most recipes are authentic to Italian home cooking. One day, I spotted the recipe for “Father Orsini’s Eggplant Balls.” While this wasn’t anything I’d ever heard of before, it definitely got my attention. Sunday dinner was becoming a bit of a problem due to a houseful of young women (daughter and stepdaughters) who were concerned about the heaviness and calorie content of this meal. We also had a vegetarian among us. So Father Orsini saved the day. I made these vegetarian meatballs one Sunday in 1989, and have been making them ever since. Everyone loves them! Of course, for vegetarians, you’ll want to use marinara sauce.
The basic gist of this recipe is that you cook down the eggplant until soft, and then treat it the way you would when making meatballs. The eggplant replaces the chopped meat. I never fry these however, as they will break apart, so I always bake them. Less calories and fat, too! Did I really say that? I hope my grandmothers in heaven didn’t hear me.
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
3 TBSP olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP water (you made need a little more)
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (you may need a little more)
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cups grated cheese
1. In a large saucepan or frypan, heat oil and gently sauté garlic until golden brown.
2. Add diced eggplant, the TBSP of water and cover. Reduce heat and gently steam until eggplant if very soft.
3. in mixing bowl, combine eggplant, bread crumbs, parsley, eggs and cheese. Mix well and let stand for 20 minutes.
4. Form into balls (if they will not hold shape, you need to add more bread crumbs) and place on a greased baking pan. I like to use my broiler pan.
5. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes.
6. Serve covered in your sauce of choice.