Happy Thursday, my loves!
I’ve been fully vegetarian (with the exception of fish occasionally) for over a year. I honestly don’t ever find myself missing meat.
Except meatballs. I could wax poetic about the joys of meatballs. The thought of a life without them makes me sad. Partly, because they taste so amazingly delicious. But mostly because my grandmother made the world’s most amazing meatballs and just the smell alone can transport me to her kitchen, where she’d be frying meatballs while I played at the table and my grandfather yelled in from the living room in broken English. They’re pretty much the taste of happiness.
Grandma used ground beef/pork/veal, eggs, and bread as her base. Then she mixed in copious amounts of sultanas (or raisins) and pignoli (or pine nuts), and fried them in a cast iron pan half full of olive oil.
I became resigned to the fact that I would never again taste the deliciousness that is a meatball. I’ve tried a few frozen vegetarian meatballs, but they all taste like, well, frozen meatballs. Ick. And I’ve been hesitant to try a veggie meatball recipe since all that I’ve seen look like they would taste very different than the meatballs in my head.
So imagine the joy I felt when my mother mentioned seeing a cute little Italian grandmother on The Chew making vegetarian meatballs (the link is right here. Click it. Watch the video, then read the recipe and come right back!).
Isn’t Mama T adorbs? I made a few modifications* to the recipe (doubled it, made it gluten free, added sultanas).
Here is my modified version, complete with a photos and nutritional information for both baked and fried versions.** (This made 32 meatballs. The calorie count is per meatball.)
1 1/2 cups (more or less, depending on humidity in the air and moisture level of eggplant) of seasoned gluten free breadcrumbs***
2 cups of finely grated pecorino
A few handfuls of sultanas
Gluten free all purpose flour for dusting
Olive oil for frying (unless you’re baking)****
Cut eggplants in half, place skin side down in a pan half full of water. Simmer, covered, until soft (maybe 20 minutes). (If you watched the video, like I told you to, you already know this.) remove from pan, and place in colander, flesh side down. Let drain for one hour (or longer– eggplant absorbs a lot of water).
Once drained, chop the eggplant up (skin and all) and dump in bowl. Also dump in cheese and breadcrumbs. Mix it all up really well, them add sultanas. Form the mixture into balls and coat lightly in gf flour.
If frying: heat about a half an inch of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and fry meatballs until dark golden brown, turning to get all sides (frying meatballs is really a labor or love). Drain on plenty on paper towels.
If baking: preheat oven to 400. Place meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet, and spray with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake until done (seriously, that’s what my grandmother would tell you). About 15 minutes should do it.
Serve with your favorite sauce, with or without pasta! Enjoy!
*Why modifications? Two reasons. One, I’m gluten free. Two, as the descendant of many Italian cooks, I can’t follow a recipe to the letter. Or won’t. Whatever. Cooking is personal and I truly believe that you should put your own spin on anything you make.
**I cook for health probably 90% of the time. This time I was cooking for nostalgia, so I fried.
***All of the gluten free breadcrumbs I’ve tried are pasty and weird, so I’ve started making my own. Just toast sliced gf bread, blitz it in the food processor, season to taste (I use granulated garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, sea salt and pepper), then dry them in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.
****I don’t care who says you shouldn’t fry in olive oil, I do it and I’m not stopping. It’s healthier than vegetable, canola, or corn oil. Yeah, it smokes so you man up and open a window.