I’ve been trying to make-meals-meatless for some time now. Reducing the amount of meat (and increasing the number of plants) we eat as a society means healthier people, happier animals, and safe environments. But whenever I consider embracing meatless Mondays or vegetarianism, the question inevitably comes up…if not meat, what do I eat?
This week, I challenged myself to find new meat alternatives for my diet. Turns out, there are more meat substitutes that I ever imagined: bean patties, tofu, tempeh, seitan, even “mock duck.” But, soy and legumes can be hard on your stomach and, frankly, their texture is nothing like meat — even when seasoned properly.
So, my favorite meat substitute is not usually used as a meat substitute at all. It’s just a plant, and it’s usually used as a side. Enter, the eggplant.
Eggplants are a beautiful bright purple sheen and have a flavor most commonly described as “meaty” — literally. Plus, they’re a great source of Vitamin C, K, and B6; they also improve heart, brain, liver, and digestive health. (I am not a certified nutritionist, but if you’re going to ditch meat, you need nutritious alternatives — not just tasty ones!)
Here are my three favorite eggplant-based meals.
1. EGGPLANT PIZZA
I love pizza and am of the belief there’s no such thing as too much pizza (if only my body would agree). Pizza lovers, rest easy! Eggplant is a delish base for a hearty pizza — no meat necessary.
- 2–3 eggplants, thinly sliced (I tried to stay around 1 ½ inches)
- 24 oz of your favorite tomato sauce (I personally love the Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara)
- 15–20 slices of mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 2 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced and ready to go
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Seasoning of choice (I prefer garlic salt)
- Freshly harvested basil leaves
- Preheat oven to 425° F. In two baking trays, arrange the sliced eggplants. Add salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste. Bake for 15–25 minutes, depending on your oven.
- Remove the eggplant and turn the broiler on. Spread tomato sauce to liking over each eggplant slice. Then layer with 1-2 slices of mozzarella cheese. Dress with cherry tomatoes and spinach. Broil for 3–5 minutes. It doesn’t take much to brown the tomatoes, so keep a close eye while broiling!
- Before serving, garnish with fresh basil leaves for an extra touch of flavor. Serve warm.
2. EGGPLANT LASAGNA
I love a good lasagna. Throw it in the oven, eat for two days. This recipe is meatless, satisfying, and simple. You just throw it in the oven and eat it as often as you desire.
- 2 small eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 cup of tomato sauce (again, Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara is truly divine!)
- 2–3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cup of nonfat ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (you can also choose a nonfat option)
- 2 Tbsp dried basil
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper
- Start by preheating oven to 400° F. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper, to taste, and roast for 10–15 minutes. You want them to be soft so that you can layer them within the lasagna.
- Coat the baking dish with cooking spray and line the bottom with eggplant slices.
- Using half of the tomato sauce, cover the eggplant slices. Then, top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle dried basil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper atop.
- Spread half of the ricotta over the tomatoes, then sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the layer. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish, and then finish off with mozzarella.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes. Then, broil until the cheese turns gold.
- Serve with a side of garlic bread and you’ve got yourself a meatless lasagna.
3. EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
If you haven’t already noticed, I love Italian-inspired dinners. This recipe is another delizioso eggplant dish I was drooling over.
NOTE: You’ll need a food processor or blender to puree.
- 1 large eggplant, diced into 1-inch cubes
- ½ Tbsp olive oil
- ⅓ cup of water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 2 Tbsp chopped basil
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 large egg
- 1 can Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara sauce
- 5 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and set aside.
- Place a bowl over medium heat. Add eggplant and ⅓ cup of water. Cook for 10–15 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Next, puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with egg, almond meal, parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and minced garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. PRO TIP: Dampen hands before working the mixture.
- Roll the mixture into balls and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned. Remove and let cool.
- Return skillet to heat. Add tomato sauce of choice and meatballs. Let simmer for 5–6 minutes. To keep meatballs from drying out, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce over the balls and sprinkle shredded cheese atop.
- Serve over pasta or on garlic cheese bread!
I hope you find these recipes as delicious as I do! Soon, meatless Mondays will be a piece of cake (and taste as good too). Share your favorite eggplant recipes with us at Gardenuity@gardenuity.com @gardenuity