½ cup cooked white beans, such as cannellini or navy (homemade or rinsed, if canned), smashed with a fork
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
½ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves or flat-leaf parsley
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat panko-style bread crumbs
Olive oil mister or nonstick pan spray
2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought)
Who says meatballs have to have meat? After being roasted in the oven, the eggplant takes on a meaty, hearty flavor that is an excellent foundation for “meatballs.” In addition, I flavor them with the traditional basil, garlic, and bread crumbs (whole wheat, in this case). I do have one other unusual twist up my sleeve, though: I add some smashed white beans for texture and an extra boost of protein. Pair these meatballs with your favorite marinara sauce and I bet no one will even know the difference!
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the eggplant on top. Use a fork to prick the eggplant 4 times, then place the eggplant in the oven and roast it until it has completely collapsed and a paring knife easily slips into the center, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool the eggplant for 20 minutes. Leave the oven on.
Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh (discard the skin). Place the roasted eggplant in a medium bowl and stir in the egg and beans. Add the garlic, basil, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, the salt, and pepper and stir to combine, then mix in the bread crumbs.
Again, line the rimmed baking sheet with a clean sheet of aluminum foil and lightly mist it with spray. Shape the eggplant mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball (you should get about 16). Place them on the prepared baking sheet and lightly mist the top of the balls with spray. Bake the eggplant balls until they are golden-brown and firm, about 20 minutes.
While the meatballs cook, warm the marinara sauce in a small saucepan. Remove the meatballs from the oven, sprinkle with a little extra Parmesan, and serve with the marinara sauce.