So there I was, watching Good Morning America with my mom when this chef named Rocco DiSpirio was featured, explaining some of his favorite Italian dishes, remade in a much healthier way. Needless to say , my curiosity was piqued instantly.
This version of healthy wasn’t using “light” or “reduced fat” processed foods, which was even better because it was actually clean and healthy! He used natural ingredients like Egg Plant and puffed cereal as fillers for the meatballs! Not really a stretch if you think about what goes in to meatballs anyway (bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, meat etc.). I’m not saying a great meatball isn’t an Art, but sometimes they become a “lets hide a bunch of leftovers in some meat and call it a dish.” Or maybe that’s just me…
I set out at once to try these and adapt them for myself, since my family loves meatballs so much anyway. I do a lot of cooking with Eggplant and while it may seem weird, it makes a lot of sense in a meatball, so I started with that and this is what I settled on.
This may seem a bit labor intensive at first, but if you read through it, you can tackle it in steps and it makes a TON of meatballs so you can make them for a big meal or re-purpose them in sandwiches, pastas etc. I stick my eggplant in right away, then tackle the rest and it doesn’t seem overwheling.
Olive oil spray (or 1 TBSP olive oil)
2 TBSP chopped garlic
1 onion, chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock
1-6oz can organinc no sodium tomatoe paste
1 15-oz cans organic no sodium diced tomatoes with italian seasoning
-(for saucier meatballs, or if cooking this in the crock pot, you could use 2 cans)
1 small egg plant
6 ounces lean ground turkey breast
4 ounces 96% lean ground beef (I used Laura’s lean)
2 ounces extra-lean ground pork
1 egg white
1/4 cup chopped (fresh) parsely*
Garlic salt (to taste)
1/8-1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cups puffed wheat cereal**
Poke holes in eggplant with a fork and bake at 400*F until eggplant is tender (about 45 minutes). Cut in half, scoop out flesh, add 1 tsp garlic salt and allow to cool in a strainer to let the excess water drip off.
Spray a deep skillet with olive oil spray. Add half the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Saute over the stove until softened (about 5 minutes). De-glaze skillet with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Blend diced tomatoes and tomatoe paste and add to skillet.
In a bowl, combine all meats. In a blender, pulse the egg white, parsely, remaining onion, garlic and chicken stock until combined, but not pureed. Add this blended mixture to your meat bowl. Add parmesan cheese and garlic salt to taste (about 1 tsp). Blend, or crumble puffed wheat cereal with your hands and add this to meat mixture. Add eggplant and mix gently. Using a table spoon and your hands, form into meatballs and add to the skillet with the tomatoe sauce mixture. Bring mixture to a soft boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better because the flavors will be allowed to marinate.
You could also cook these in the crock pot, but I would add another can of diced or crushed tomatoes.
*I have also used the dried Italian Blend herbs and they tasted fine
**I have also toasted 3 slices of light wheat bread, allowed it to cool and crumbled that in too