Eggplant With Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
Eggplant with meatballs in tomato sauce is a luscious, easy recipe that I learned from my friend Hella Matalon, a prominent member of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki. If you can’t find the Florina red pepper, a long, sweet fleshy pepper, you can use any sweet fresh red pepper for this dish.
- 5 medium firm ripe fresh tomatoes
- 5 medium eggplants
- 1 fresh Florina peppers or red bell pepper, diced
- 5 Tbsp extra virgin Greek olive oil plus a combination of olive oil and sunflower or corn oil for frying)
- 1 pound /450 g ground beef
- 1 egg
- ½ cup of breadcrumbs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup of warm water
Roast the eggplant on top of the stove over a low open flame on each of the burners. (You can also do this on a barbecue or under the broiler.) Turn them a couple of times until they are charred and cooked through. When ready, leave them aside to cool down.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the immersion blender bowl. Pulse until they’re pureed. Transfer the tomato puree to a wide pot or saucepan and let it simmer.
Seed the Florina or red bell pepper and cut it into a small dice. Add the pepper to the tomato sauce together with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with sea salt and simmer on medium to low heat while preparing the meatballs.
Prepare the meatballs: mix the ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, sea salt, pepper, and warm water. Knead the mix and form the meatballs.
Heat 3 inches of olive oil combined with corn or sunflower oil in a large-and-deep frying pan and add the meatballs as soon as the oil is hot enough. Let them brown on one side and then turn them with kitchen tongs or a spatula to cook and brown on the other side. Meanwhile, cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and take out the pulp using two spoons. Do so gently, careful not to get any of the charred skin.
Transfer the eggplant pulp to a fine mesh sieve and strain out and reserve any liquid. While they’re in the strainer, roughly chop them. Add the strained and cut eggplants into the tomato sauce. Discard the strained liquid.
When the meatballs are ready and have formed a nice crispy exterior, remove them from the frying pan with a slotted spoon and transfer them on a plate lined with kitchen towels to drain.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and let it simmer for about 10 more minutes so that all the flavors meld together.