This vegetarian take on Italian meatballs uses juicy, flavor-packed eggplant in a classic marinara. It’s perfect on pasta, in a sandwich, or as is!
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil, plus additional for spraying
- 1 large eggplant (1–1½ lbs./450–700 g), cubed, skin on (see cook’s tip)
- ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
- ½ tsp (2 mL) pepper
- ½ cup (125 mL) water
- 2 cups (500 mL) panko breadcrumbs
- 2 oz. (60 g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup/250 mL)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 tsp (30 mL) chopped basil leaves
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
- 1 can (28 oz./794 g) crushed tomatoes
- ¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
- ⅓ cup (75 mL) ricotta cheese
- Optional toppings: Chopped basil, grated Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1–3 minutes. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper and add to the skillet with the water. Cook until softened and browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
- Place the eggplant in a food processor and pulse a few times until roughly chopped. Return to the bowl, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, garlic, and basil; mix until combined.
- Spray the trays of the Deluxe Air Fryer with oil. Form the eggplant mixture into 22–26 balls and place on the trays. Place the trays on the top and bottom racks. Cook on BAKE for 16 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the trays halfway through.
- Meanwhile, to prepare the sauce, heat the oil in the same skillet on medium heat for 1–3 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and salt; simmer for 15 minutes.
- When the meatballs are done, add to the skillet and spoon dollops of ricotta into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook until hot, 2–3 minutes. To serve, top with basil, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes, if you’d like.
- 6 servings
Nutrients per serving:
U.S. nutrients per serving: Calories 350, Total Fat 18 g, Saturated Fat 5 g, Cholesterol 110 mg, Sodium 950 mg, Carbohydrate 33 g, Fiber 5 g, Sugars 10 g (includes 0 g added sugar), Protein 16 g
We like keeping the skin on the eggplant for added texture and color, but you can peel the eggplant if you’d like.
For a gluten-free version, instead of using panko breadcrumbs, you can use gluten-free panko or another breadcrumb substitution.