Eggplant and Porcini (Meatless) Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

It's overcast and dare-I-say chilly here this morning and it feels so good. Last week, we had a run of 100-degree days, and not only were they unwelcomed, but there are only so many hot weather dinner options. In short, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed being in the kitchen and doing some real cooking for a change. 
Apart from the heat wave though, things have been looking up around here. Matt got a new job! (And bonus, this major life change also allows him to come home a bit earlier so that he can spend some time with Teddy before bed!) And I finished a new piece of writingsomething I hadn't done for monthsa post-baby problem of mine I'd written (complained?) about over on Grizzly and Golden
But back to these meatballs: Matt and I loved them. Really loved them. Plus, the texture wasn't too far off from normal meat-full meatballs. As I alluded to before, they are a bit labor intensive, but it's all of the good kind of labor—roasting, simmering, frying until golden-browned.
We were also really pleased with the wine we drank with them: Symmetry (2011 Meritage) from Rodney Strong vineyards. I rarely say yes to PR requestsmaybe two or three times in the last five years but when the good people at Rodney Strong vineyards offered to send us some bottles, I simply couldn't say no. Their Healdsburg location made me nostalgic for our 2011 trip to the beautiful Russian River Valley. Plus, good wine is important to new moms (and I suspect, to tenured moms as well).

Point being, this is kind of a perfect late summer/early fall meal. I'm already looking forward to making it again.
Eggplant and Porcini "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce via Food and Wine
serves 4

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (I accidentally bought only half an ounce and though it worked fine, I think next time I'll go for the full ounce.)
Boiling water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
Two 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes, seeded and pureed with their juices
2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups fresh bread crumbs (from 6 ounces crustless country bread)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
All-purpose flour, for coating
Vegetable oil, for frying
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and set it on a baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until very soft and collapsed. Let cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and let cool completely. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and let stand until softened, 30 minutes; drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the porcini to remove any grit. Finely chop the porcini.

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and half of the garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and pour in the porcini soaking liquid, stopping before reaching the grit; bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened, 1 hour. Add half of the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.

Fold the chopped porcini, bread crumbs, eggs, 2 ounces of cheese, parsley and the remaining garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Form the eggplant mixture into twenty 1 3/4-inch balls, rolling tightly. Dust the balls with flour and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Add half of the meatballs at a time and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread and grated cheese.


Matthew said...

We should do this again with PASTA. SOOOOO good. xoxo

Brands family blog said...

Love the little baby hand on the book. Can't wait to make these!

Bellbird said...

YUM that looks so delicious.

Meaghan said...

These will be made for a Meatball Night I'm imagining I will host in the near future. COUNT. ON. IT.

Ileana said...

Looks and sounds so delicious! It's been super hot here, too, and we moved recently which means more eating out than cooking at home lately. So I hear you on missing real cooking!

p.s. I just love the pics of Teddy peeking into the kitchen. His little smile makes me smile. :)

Katherine (eggton) said...

Matt's photos are always good, but I have to say that these ones are *really* good. They made me feel like I was there (albeit in a it's-50-degrees-in-Chicago kind of way). Also, I feel like PR requests from the WINE industry should go into their own category. There is a huge difference between "hey! want to tell your readers about this gift basket of lemon curd/honey ham/gluten-free crackers?" and "heeeey. we got wine for you, girl. Wine."

I respect your decision.

Unknown said...

I have been trying to recreate these meatballs for years with little to no success. Can't wait to try this recipe! Fingers crossed they'll be just like the ones we ate in Calabria!

NicoleD said...

This looks amazing! Congrats on your happy life changes and successes, woo! It's sad, but Rodney Strong always makes me think "bathroom" because we were wine tasting at J. Winery next door a few years back and they were remodeling, so they had no bathroom and sent me to Rodney Strong. Apparently J. had not told them about their remodel, so someone from RS very politely asked me what was going on, eep. I wish we would have tried their wines, because I only think "bathroom" and that's just not right.

Matthew said...

Thank you, Katherine! :-)

Sadie said...

I made these last night and enjoyed them so much! I wonder how they would freeze (pre being cooked, at the fridge stage) and then cook up when needed because that way it could become a fast week dinner. Do you have a trick for de-seeding canned tomatoes? I feel like I am not slick with this at all and always end up grabbing the strainer which takes a huge amount of time.

Amelia Morris said...

This just goes to show you what kind of a cook I am: I have always disregarded that step! In fact, I won't even puree the tomatoes. What I do is take a pair of kitchen shears and cut the tomatoes (roughly) while they are still in the can. Ha! (Maybe try it next time?)

Amelia Morris said...

Just another reason to go back? :)

Dani Elis said...

Your photo's a beautiful! I'm so glad I just found your blog, I was reading The Wednesday Chef and Luisa linked your blog for these lovely meatless meatball. YUM! Defiantly on my 'to cook list'.

LC said...

Silly question but where did you get that tea kettle?? I love it!!

Amelia Morris said...

Hi there! The kettle is by All-Clad. It was a wedding gift. :)