Chicken, Eggplant and Mushroom Meatballs
Photo: Joanna Li, RD
Some days just call for comfort food. Here is a healthy twist on spaghetti and meatballs using ground chicken, hearty eggplant and meaty mushrooms. You can serve these juicy and tender meatballs over whole-wheat pasta, with sautéed vegetables, and topped with tomato sauce, or skewered with a toothpick as an appetizer. This recipe is also a great way to introduce eggplant and mushrooms to kids or picky eaters. Give your meatballs a nutrition boost with this recipe!
Yields 16 meatballs
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 to 1½ cups mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and white button)
- 1 small minced yellow onion
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and more for serving
- ½ tablespoon dried parsley
- All-purpose flour, for coating
- Vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Using a fork, prick the eggplant all over and set it on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it becomes very soft and easy to pierce with a fork. When done, remove from oven, cut in half lengthwise, scrape the flesh into a large bowl and discard the skin.
- While eggplant is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and cook the chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion and half the garlic, stirring frequently. Add the crushed tomatoes and dried basil and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture over low heat for about an hour.
- In a large bowl, stir together the mushrooms, eggplant, chicken, bread crumbs, egg, cheese, dried parsley and the rest of the garlic and season with salt and pepper.
- Using an ice cream scoop, scoop and form the chicken mixture into balls. Coat the meatballs lightly in flour and line them on a baking sheet or large plate. Note: Place them in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes if they seem to be falling apart when handled.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat and start adding the meatballs, placing them in the pan and being sure not to crowd too many at one time. Turn occasionally until browned all over and internal temperature has reached 165°F.
- Drain the cooked meatballs on paper towels. Serve over whole-wheat pasta and veggies with the tomato sauce. Optional: Garnish with fresh basil leaves and grated cheese.
Joanna Li, RD, is a New York City-based community registered dietitian for the WIC program in Lower Manhattan. There, she works to improve the health status of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and their children up to 5 years old. Connect with her on her blog, Just My Cup of Jo, and on Twitter.