Eggplant "Meat"balls

You know what kids like?

A big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

You know what I like?

A big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

But I also like cooking and creating. I like the sound of onions heating a hot pan of butter and olive oil. I like the toasty smell of vegetables caramelizing in an oven to a roasted sweet perfection. I like the slow process of taking a few simple ingredients like tomato sauce and butter and onion and turning it into a sauce that when combined with freshly made pasta and hand-rolled meatballs is a work of art that cannot be captured in photo but must be tasted and enjoyed.

This creative process and sensory experience is my therapy and my dream.

And unfortunately, too often than not, it remains as such. Just a dream.

Because little ones do not appreciate the time and the gift and the beauty.

They want a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

They want it fast.

And when they are done they will not have tasted or enjoyed. They will have consumed and then left a trail from chair to bath tub with nothing remaining but a messy pile of half eaten dinner within a 3 feet radius of the child’s seat.

Such is life. We begin with the same goal in mind as the little ones we are raising. But before we can take a savory moment to taste the meal, the life, the children have moved on with reckless abandon to the next milestone, the next item on the giant checklist of life, with little to no care for the effort you put into the preparations for them.

It’s a season, they tell me. The longest and shortest season. The season when you just do what you have to do to get from dinner to bath to bed.

So sometimes in this season the big giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is a bag of spaghetti, a jar of marinara, and meatballs from the frozen section. Sometimes you don’t get to taste your food because you are too busy refilling milk glasses and blowing on hot plates and retrieving thrown utensils.

But sometimes, on those golden days, you get to practice the art you love. And dream of the days when you have more time than you know what to do with for crafting in the kitchen, because your kitchen is quiet. Some days you are gifted a glimpse into that future day. It looks just as beautiful and heartbreaking as you imagine it will. As you stir the onions into the butter, you count your blessings, for this moment, and for those hungry mouths, who just want a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

This meal is not for the every day. But it is for the golden days. For you as much as for them. 

Eggplant “Meat”balls

Adapted ever so slightly from Skinny Taste.

These “meat”balls are best when served with homemade spaghetti and pasta sauce. Emily’s version is perfection. But you can still find your cooking zen by just focusing on the “meat”balls and adding in your favorite jar sauce and packaged spaghetti. Take the help when you can find it.


  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 lbs unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs 
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups of your favorite pasta sauce, or our favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 pound pasta of choice


Heat the oven to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times.

Transfer to a bowl and add bread crumbs, beaten egg, Romano cheese, parsley, garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.

Form the eggplant mixture into 24 balls about 1 1/8 oz each, rolling tightly and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet until warm. Add the meatballs to the sauce gently and simmer for five minutes. Garnish with parsley and cheese and serve over pasta.