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Eggplant Meatballs

Incredible Eggplant Meatballs served in a rich tomato sauce. These "meatballs" are completely meat-free made with roasted eggplant, herbs, egg and breadcrumbs. Serve them on top of creamy polenta for a hearty and comforting Italian meal.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Servings: 4 servings (16 meatballs)
Calories: 401kcal
Author: Emily Kemp


For the meatballs

  • 2 medium sized eggplant (aubergines)
  • ½ cup fine breadcrumbs (80g)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (35g)
  • ½ parmesan finely grated (30g)
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes chilli flakes
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-4 tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups passata (tomato puree/crushed strained tomatoes) (500g)
  • 1 cup water (240ml)
  • 1 small handful fresh basil
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
  • Cut each end off of the eggplants and trim off the skin with a sharp knife. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch sized cubes and lay out evenly on a baking tray.
  • Drizzle over 2-3 tablespoon of olive oil and toss the eggplant to coat it in oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
  • Once cooled slightly add it to a food processor with the pine nuts (¼ cup/35g), parmesan (½ cup/30g), breadcrumbs (½ cup/80g), egg (1 medium), fennel seeds (½ tsp), red pepper flakes (½ tsp), oregano (1 tsp) and salt (1 tsp). Blitz everything until smooth but still has some texture.
  • Brush a baking tray with olive oil then roll the eggplant mixture into 1.5 inch balls (you should get around 16 balls). Wet your hands with cold water if the mixture gets sticky.
  • Lay the meatballs on the baking sheet and brush lightly with more olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden on top.

Make the sauce

  • While the meatballs are baking make the sauce. Finely chop the garlic (2 cloves) and add to a large skillet or frying pan with ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Once fragrant add the passata/tomato puree (2 cups/500g) and water (1 cup/240ml) with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes until thickened slightly then stir in a small handful of fresh basil.
  • Serve the meatballs topped with some tomato sauce with polenta, pasta or grilled vegetables.



  • Don't let them sit in the sauce for too long - the longer the meatballs sit in the sauce the more sauce they will absorb and softer they will become. I recommend tossing them in the sauce right before serving.
  • Variations - you can easily adjust the flavour by adding in different herbs, spices or lemon zest.
  • Garlic - I don't add garlic to the meatballs because I serve them in a tomato sauce with garlic.
  • Brush them with oil - make sure to brush the baking tray with oil so they don't stick and brush the meatballs with oil so they get a nice light golden crispy outside.
  • Leftovers - leftover meatballs in sauce will soften but can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days.
  • Freezing - the meatballs are best frozen separately from the sauce.


Calories: 401kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 911mg | Potassium: 1205mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 895IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 189mg | Iron: 5mg