These Greek-style eggplant “meatballs” are completely vegetarian. In Greek, they’re known as melitzanokeftedes and are usually served as an appetizer with some creamy tzatziki sauce. These are so good that I decided to turn them into a meal with some quick homemade marinara sauce and feta cheese and named it Eggplant Saganaki. The eggplant saganaki can be served with toasted bread to soak up the delicious sauce and a side salad for a fabulous vegetarian dinner.
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These eggplant meatballs are traditionally fried and while that’s my favorite way to eat them, you can certainly bake them. If you have a spray bottle, pour some olive oil in it and spray the meatballs after they’re coated in breadcrumbs to help them brown evenly in the oven. You can also form them into larger burger-style patties.
Both marinara sauce and tzatziki go great with the melitzanokeftedes. If you’re serving them at a party as an appetizer just set a bowl of each of the dips besides the meatballs and let your guests enjoy them.
Turn the eggplant meatballs into an elegant vegetarian meal:
If you’ve ever had shrimp saganaki, you will remember the flavorful tomato and feta sauce! I made a quick and easy homemade tomato sauce, although you may feel free to take a shortcut and use marinara sauce from a jar, dropped the meatballs inside, sprinkled some feta on top, then set it under the broiler for under 10 minutes. Voila! Dinner is served!
For the meatballs:
- • 2 large eggplants, about 1.5 pounds
- • 1 and ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- • 1 garlic clove, grated
- • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
- • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
- • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- • 1 egg, beaten
- • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Breadcrumbs for coating
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Feta cheese for the sauce
For the tomato sauce:
- • 30 ounces canned tomatoes, pureed
- • Salt and pepper, to taste
- • ½ teaspoon sugar or honey
- • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- • 1 teaspoon dried basil
- • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200 °C.
- Place the eggplants on a baking tray and pierce them all around with a fork.
- Brush the skin lightly with some olive oil and bake on the center rack for 30-40 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
- Scoop out all of the flesh from the cooked eggplants, roughly chop it and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add all of the meatball ingredients except for the egg and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Add the egg and mix well.
- Roll about golf ball-sized meatballs and set in a plate.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat until very hot.
- Place about a cup of panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and roll the eggplant meatballs in it until coated.
- Fry a few meatballs at a time until golden all around. About 4-5 minutes. Do not fry too many at a time otherwise, the oil’s temperature will drop, and the meatballs will become soggy.
- Place the meatballs on a tray lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil.
- Serve with tzatziki and marinara sauce as an appetizer. Enjoy!
- For the Eggplant Saganaki:
- 1. Make the sauce:
- • Combine the pureed tomatoes and all of the remaining sauce ingredients in a pot or skillet. Cook over medium heat until thick and reduced. About 8 minutes.
- • Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- 2. Place the eggplant meatballs in the sauce and crumble some feta cheese in between.
- 3. Place the pan/pot under in a preheated oven set to broil. Make sure that the pan is on the center rack and broil for 4 minutes. Flip the eggplant meatballs over and broil for an additional 4 minutes.
- 4. Serve with toasted bread to soak up the rich sauce. Enjoy!
- Note: The eggplant meatballs can be formed into patties (one-quarter cup), then coated in breadcrumbs and baked for 25-30 minutes or until golden.