One of my favorite dishes at my local Italian joint is Eggplant Parm. Who doesn’t love Eggplant Parm?! I’ve even heard of anti-eggplant folks secretly admitting their love for a well-done Eggplant Parm. As much as I love the dish, I feel a bit guilty eating it sometimes, you know, the big portion of fried on fried. So I developed this healthier version that’s packed with protein thanks to quinoa, and it doesn’t skimp on all the scrumptious flavors and comfort of your neighborhood Italian Eggplant Parm. Even if you’re not an eggplant lover, I can almost guarantee you’ll be an eggplant parm quinoa ball lover! Give it a try. And if you've got some extra eggplant, try this crazy good turkish flatbread with eggplant and feta.
A little fun fact, there are many, many varieties of eggplants, and they are SO beautiful. The eggplant we typically find, the one on the longer side with a deep purple almost black skin is called Nadia. And now you know.
eggplant parm quinoa balls with quick tomato sauce
makes 12 eggplant quinoa balls
1 medium eggplant
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup quinoa, cooked
¼ cup ricotta, plus more to serve
¼ cup basil, sliced, plus more for garnish
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup parmesan, grated, plus more to serve
1 clove garlic, grated
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs, (use gluten-free if you'd like, I did)
salt & pepper, to taste
tomato sauce, to serve
quick tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ pounds tomatoes, chopped (canned are okay too)
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place on a lined baking sheet; bake until tender, 35-40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and roughly chop; discard skin.
In a medium bowl, mash eggplant flesh with a fork. Fold in quinoa, ricotta, basil, egg, parmesan, garlic and breadcrumbs; season with salt and pepper. Place mixture in the fridge to set while you make the tomato sauce. If you rather use store-bought sauce this time around, that's ok! Just place the eggplant mixture in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm up before cooking.
For the tomato sauce: In a saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until soft and golden, 2-3 minutes. Add oregano and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes; season. Cook over medium-low, breaking down tomatoes with a wooden spoon, 12-15 minutes. You want it saucy, but not dry. Taste and adjust seasoning.
While sauce is simmering, form mixture into 2-inch balls. In a large skillet heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. In batches, if needed, cook the balls, turning occasionally, until browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate if working in batches and add more oil to the pan, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Return balls back to the skillet; add tomato sauce and simmer until cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Serve and top with basil, parmesan, and ricotta on the side. Enjoy over a green salad or with pasta, and turn everyone into an eggplant fan!