Who said meatballs must be made with meat? Hearty eggplant is one of the best vegetable substitutes for making meat-less “meatballs” because of its meaty texture and high fiber content. These plant-based Eggplant Pesto Meatballs have a similar texture to your traditional Italian recipe, but the eggplant in our recipe gives these “balls” a more tender and silky consistency and a flavor that makes it easy to forget that you are not eating beef.
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Makes 40 meatballs (5 servings)
1 1/2tbspolive oil
1 1/4poundseggplantunpeeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1cuppanko bread crumbs
red pepper flakesoptional
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup raw cashews,soaked overnight or boiled for 20 minutes until soft
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent about 3 minutes. Add garlic until lightly browned, remaining olive oil, and eggplant, and brown on both sides. Add water, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until eggplant is soft. Remove from heat, transfer to a heat proof bowl, and set aside.
In a food processor, add garlic, cashews, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and water. Process until smooth. Add basil, lemon juice, and olive oil while processing. Mix until smooth and set aside.
In the bowl, mash eggplant into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the cashew pesto and mix well. Lastly, add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined.
Roll eggplant meatless balls in about 2-inch diameter approximately 1 1/2 tablespoon of mixture.
Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and bake until browned (about 25 minutes) turning once so the eggplant pesto “meatballs” are browned on both sides.
Serve over zucchini noodles or your choice of pasta with tomato sauce.