Meatballs are a perfect little package of protein but not all meatballs have to be “meat”balls. For a vegetarian twist, swap the meat for lentils, mushrooms, bulgur or as in this recipe, eggplant. Eggplant has a texture that works well as a meat substitute and the addition of beans helps to boost the fiber and protein.
Eggplant Meatballs over Zucchini Noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 lb. eggplant (about 1 large), unpeeled, sliced into ½ inch circles
1 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup white beans
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup whole wheat panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, add1 tablespoon of olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Place slices of eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet or sprayed with cooking spray. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Put into the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes (flipping eggplant over ½ way through cooking). Eggplant slices should be brown and soft. In the bowl of a food processor, add beans and onion mixture and cooked eggplant. Pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed. Add cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Pulse just until combined (4-5 pulses).
Using a large tablespoon, scoop mixture and form into balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray, and bake in 400 degree oven until browned and firm, about 25 minutes. Serve with a quick homemade marinara sauce and zucchini noodles.