Jane’s Kitchen: Eggplant & Porcini “Meat”balls in Tomato Sauce


From Food and Wine


Servings: 8 

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds) 

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms 

Boiling water 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

1 small onion, minced 

4 garlic cloves, grated 

2 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes, seeded and pureed with their juices 

2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish 

1 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon pepper 

3 cups fresh bread crumbs (from 6 ounces crustless country bread) 

2 large eggs, beaten 

2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving 

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley 

All-purpose flour, for coating 

Vegetable oil, for frying 

Crusty bread, for serving 


Preheat the oven to 350°. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and set it on a baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until very soft and collapsed. Let cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and let cool completely. Discard the skin. 

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and let stand until softened, 30 minutes; drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the porcini to remove any grit. Finely chop the porcini. 

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and half of the garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and pour in the porcini soaking liquid, stopping before reaching the grit; bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened, 1 hour. Add half of the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. 

Add the chopped porcini, bread crumbs, eggs, 2 ounces of cheese, parsley and the remaining garlic and chopped basil along with the eggplant to the food processor and process until slightly chunky. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. 

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Form the eggplant mixture into twenty 1 1/4-inch balls, rolling tightly. Dust the balls with flour and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Add half of the meatballs at a time and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread and grated cheese. 

NOTE: Alternately use a good 28-ounce jarred marinara (I used Rao’s) that has been diluted with about 1 cup of porcini mushroom liquid and reduced down for about 1/2 hour. Omit the onion, 2 of the cloves of garlic, the 1 tablespoon of basil and the additional salt and pepper.