This dish has gone into the keeper file. I adapted it from Sarah Leah Chase’s recipe for Lamb Meatballs in a Tomato Eggplant Sauce. The original recipe can be found in her New England Open House Cookbook. Think of it as meatballs and spaghetti with Greek flair!
Ingredients for the meatballs:
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
2 TBS olive oil
3/4 cup panko (or a little more)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 small to medium onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1 TBS fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato eggplant sauce:
1 large eggplant
4 TBS olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 oz.) petit diced tomatoes
2 TBS tomato paste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
pasta of your choice
crumbled feta cheese for serving (optional but nice!)
1. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl using your hands. Form small meatballs (about 1 1/2” diameter) either by hand or using a small ice cream scoop. You should end up with about 20 meatballs. Line them up on the parchment covered sheet pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.
3. Line another pan with aluminum foil. Pierce the eggplant in a number of places on its surface and rub all over with olive oil. Place in the oven on another shelf while the meatballs are cooking.
4. Once the meatballs are done, remove them from the oven and set them aside. Raise the temperature to 425, and finish cooking the eggplant (around 15 more minutes) until the skin has started to collapse and the flesh is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a bit. As soon as you can touch the eggplant without burning yourself, split it open and scrape the flesh away from the skin. Discard the skin and chop the flesh into manageable pieces. Set aside.
5. Heat 3 TBS oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic. Cook briefly without browning. Add the can of tomatoes with the juice and the tomato paste. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher if the pieces seem too big.
6. Add the eggplant. Check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Let simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.
7. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Stir to coat the meatballs with the sauce and let simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes. I covered the pan for half the time and then uncovered it.
8. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with feta, if desired.
To be fair to the original recipe, I deliberately left out the cinnamon (pinch) and mint (1 tsp. dry) that might have made this dish even more authentically Greek. Check out the original recipe if those flavors appeal to you. We loved it without them.