Spaghetti and meatballs has multigenerational appeal, even when it goes vegetarian. A blend of eggplant and white beans provides the protein. Cheese, garlic, and oregano are the familiar-flavor agents; breadcrumbs and egg bind them together. A quick trip under the broiler browns the tops and sides, then plunk!—into the gravy they go.



Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat broiler with a rack about 6 inches from heating element. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until blackened on top, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and continue broiling until blackened on second side, 3 to 4 minutes more.

  • Immediately transfer to a bowl with oil, garlic, and oregano, tossing to combine. Cover bowl with a plate or plastic wrap; let steam until eggplant softens and cools slightly, about 5 minutes.

  • Transfer eggplant mixture to a food processor. Add beans, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, red-pepper flakes, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Pulse just to a chunky paste, 10 to 12 times (do not overmix). Form mixture into 16 meatballs, each approximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter; transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lightly drizzled with oil.

  • Drizzle with more oil, shaking sheet until meatballs are lightly and evenly coated. Broil, undisturbed, until browned on top and firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, bring 3 cups tomato sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large straight-sided skillet. Gently transfer broiled meatballs to sauce, turning to coat (meatballs are delicate and can fall apart if handled aggressively). Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Return pasta to pot; stir in remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup pasta water.

  • Toss in more pasta water as necessary, a little at a time, until sauce evenly clings to noodles. Serve meatballs with sauce over pasta, topped with more cheese and red-pepper flakes, and a drizzle of oil.

Cook's Notes

Bucatini, a spaghetti-like pasta that's thicker and has a hollow core, is also excellent in this recipe.


Rating: 5.0 stars
Delicioso! These "meatballs" are going to become a favorite in my house.