I have my grandpop to thank for this one. Yes, that’s right (thanks Grandpop). As I’ve mentioned before, my grandfather is a fantastic Italian cook. At some point during my teens he invited the whole family over for a big pasta dinner. This wasn’t an issue for me. I was happy eating pasta, salad, bread, or whatever other non-meat items came along with the dinner. When I arrived he was cooking up a version of these eggplant meatballs. He’d seen them prepared on a cooking show and thought he’d give them a shot for me. He looked a little downcast and informed me that he didn’t think they turned out right. I tried one and informed him that he was sorely mistaken. See, I think he expected them to be meatier, as they were intended to be a vegetarian version of meatballs. What actually came out, to my tastebuds at least, was more like an eggplant parm flavored ball of vegetarian goodness! I happily enjoyed my eggplant meatballs alongside my pasta that night, and took the leftovers home to make an amazing eggplant meatball parm grinder.
I don’t have the exact recipe my grandfather used. In fact, I don’t think he ever really had a recipe, but rather simply tried to replicate a technique demonstrated on television. I’ve borrowed that technique several times since that initial taste. For this version, I decided to go vegan, whereas the original eggplant meatballs created by my grandfather contained some parmesan cheese. I’ve added some nutritional yeast to get a cheesy flavor, and don’t miss the dairy at all. I also initially pan fried these, which didn’t work out as well as my second attempt in which I baked them. A cast iron skillet is your friend here, as it will give them a perfectly crisp exterior to encase the delicious melt-in-your mouth eggplant.
marinara sauce, for serving