Eggplant Meatballs (Polpette di Melanzane)

Who says that “meatballs” have to be made with meat?

1 1/2 Pounds Of Eggplant Peeled And Diced Into About One Inch Cubes

2 Slices Of Italian Bread

A Beaten Egg

1/2 Cup Of Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

A Tablespoon Of Finely Chopped Fresh Basil

A Tablespoon Of Finely Chopped Italian Parsley

A Minced Garlic Clove

A Teaspoon Of Garlic Powder

A Tablespoon And A Teaspoon Of  Sea Salt, Divided

1/4 Teaspoon Of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

3/4 Cup Of Panko Breadcrumbs

3/4 Cup Of Olive Oil

Four Cups Of Tomato Sauce

Add a tablespoon of sea salt to a pot of cold water. Note: the pot should be large enough to hold all of the eggplant. Bring the water to a boil. Cooked the diced eggplant in the pot of salted boiling water for 6 minutes. Before draining the eggplant, remove about a cup of the cooking water and set it aside to cool. Drained the eggplant in a colander. Let the cooked eggplant cool for at least an hour.

When the eggplant has cooled, squeeze out as much water as you can. Place the eggplant in a food processor. Pulse five times. Note: you are looking to achieve the consistency of ground meat.  Cut the Italian bread into about 3/4 inch cubes. Place the bread cubes into the eggplant cooking liquid. Allow the bread cubes to sit and absorb the liquid for a few minutes. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible from the bread.

Into a mixing bowl, add the eggplant, the bread cubes, the parsley, the basil, the garlic powder, the minced garlic, the grated cheese, a teaspoon of sea salt, the black pepper, the crushed red pepper flakes, the beaten egg, and 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs. Mix well until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Note: if your mixture has a lot of moisture you may need to add more breadcrumbs. Rub your hands with olive oil. With your hands, shape the eggplant mixture into meatballs about the size of golf balls. Note: this mixture should yield about 8 meatballs. Roll the formed meatballs into about 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs that have been spread out on a plate.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Add about 3/4 cup of olive oil to a 12-14 inch non-stick skillet. Place the skillet on high heat and let the oil heat up for 4 minutes. Drop the meatballs into the skillet. Cook while turning frequently so that they brown all sides.

After the meatballs have browned, place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess olive oil.

Finish cooking the meatballs in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with hot tomato sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella and/or grated cheese. Note: put the meatballs and tomato sauce in a baking dish and place the cheese on top of the meatballs. Put the baking dish under the broiler until the cheese melts.