Meat-Free Fridays: Rigatoni with Cream Sauce and Eggplant Balls

Those may look like normal meatballs, but I promise the closest thing in there to meat is eggplant. I really like to make these as a meatless alternative. The texture is very similar to a regular meatball (not at all like the frozen vegetarian meatballs you can buy) and they stay nice and moist. They taste a little like eggplant parmesan – which makes sense considering the ingredients – but that shape makes them easy to toss into pasta or on a sub or however you feel like eating them. They’re also good dipped in a yogurt and cucumber sauce! I’ve gotten quite a few people hooked on these….

Since I was using my food processor to shred the eggplant, I decided it was easier to use a jarred sauce for this. I went with a jar of Napa Valley Bistro Creamy Marinara. I like that the ingredient lists is short and full of recognizable foods like tomatoes, olive oil, wine and heavy cream. It isn’t too bad in terms of calories either! Its not as good as homemade, but its decent in a pinch. Its a little sweeter than I generally like my sauce to be, but some crushed red pepper helps with that.

I threw in some baby spinach right at the end of heating the sauce and allowed it to wilt, then served it with rigatoni and the eggplant balls. I topped it with some grated parmasean and some fresh basil. Not bad!

Eggplant Balls

  • 1 large Italian eggplant, peeled
  • 1/4 cup romano cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs, lightly scrambled
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • crushed red peppers, salt, and Italian seasonings to taste
  • 3 Tbs olive oil

Shred the eggplant using a food processor with a shredding attachment or a box grater. Using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as you can and discard. Combine with cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, and seasoning and mix well. The mixture should be about the same consistency as meatballs – if its too wet add some more breadcrumbs – if its too dry add an egg white. Form into balls – I like mine to be about the size of golf balls. A melon baller works well if you want an appetizer sized ball.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the balls to the hot oil. Cook about 15 minutes,rolling them around in the pan occasionally to prevent them from burning, but allowing a nice crust to form on the outside.

Serves about 4.


  1. save me some!

  2. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says:

    I could eat many many of those eggplant meatballs – yum! The rigatoni with cream sauce sound excellent!

  3. boy did I drop the ball on this one -I posted one time – so lame. This looks very good -I like how inviting the rigatonis are!

  4. that looks so unbelievably delicious! My Gram used to make eggplant meatballs all the time; they are so good!

  5. That looks good. I’ve got to try making eggplant ball a nice substitute for the meat version.

  6. Never would have thought to use eggplant for meatballs! They really do look great!

  7. Eggplant meatballs? What a great idea! I love meatless alternatives, so I need to try this.

  8. wow! those eggplant balls really look like meat! I think I can actually envision myself as a vegetarian with these!

  9. It is so clever to make eggplant balls to meatballs : ) You remind me that the chinese veggie restaurants like making veggie food that look like meat. My hubby does not like eggplants normally,it may change his mind if I make them like this!

  10. AWESOME idea with the eggplant. love it!

  11. Love the creativity with vegan AND soy free meatballs!

  12. I have neve rhad eggplant balls, it sounds really yummy.

  13. WooHoo! I’m so glad I came across these from FGawker… I love eggplant and never know how to cook it. Cannot wait to try this out!

  14. Carolina de Witte says:

    Wow! I have bookmarked this recipe, it sounds wonderful. I am going shopping today, and will see if I can find the ingredients. If so, I will do these either tonight or tomorrow. What a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Kristin says:

    I made these over the weekend and they were fantastic! The texture was great and the taste was wonderful. I’m looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch today!

  16. Had these at a bridal shower once and everyone loved them. ;)


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