Eggplant Meatballs Subs with Caciocavallo are the delicious vegetarian alternative to traditional meatball subs that everyone will love. Smoked caciocavallo cheese bring these sandwiches to a whole new level!
2cupscrumb from day old bread, torn into small pieces by hand or pulsed in a food processor
1/4cupcombination of Parmigiano Reggiano/Pecorino Romano cheeses,or just 1 cheese if you prefer
1/4cupfresh chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
1/4cupdried, unseasoned bread crumbs
For the sauce
2cupstomato purée or tomato passata
salt and pepper,to taste
To assemble the sub
1cupsmoked caciocavallo cheese
To prepare the eggplant
Peel the skin using a vegetable peeler. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Place in a large bowl, salt generously and cover with water. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Drain the water from the eggplant and rinse until the water is clear. Pat the eggplant cubes dry with a paper towel and place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Salt lightly and toss with olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the eggplant pieces halfway. If the eggplant has absorbed all of the oil and appears to be dry, drizzle with extra olive oil. Set aside to cool slightly.
To prepare the meatballs
Lower the oven temperature to 350F and place a clean sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.
In a large bowl combine the meatballs ingredients listed (from breadcrumbs to salt and pepper). Add the baked eggplant. Use your hands to combine the ingredients, breaking down the pieces of eggplant in the process.
Shape into 12 meatballs. Dredge each meatball in the dried breadcrumbs and place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes, turn over and continue baking for 12 minutes more.
To prepare the sauce
While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. In a medium sized deep skillet or sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
Pour in the tomato purée, lower the temperature and let simmer while the eggplant is baking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the eggplant meatballs are ready, transfer them to the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes longer.
To assemble the subs
Slice open the submarine bread and warm in the oven for a few minutes if desired. Place 5 or 6 meatballs in the bread (or as many as you can fit according to the size of your bread). Top with about 1/2 cup smoked caciocavallo. The heat of the meatballs and the bread will melt the cheese. Serve immediately!
If you prefer a smoother consistency, the baked eggplant can be puréed. If you can not find smoked caciocavallo, smoked mozzarella (or unsmoked mozzarella if you prefer) may be substituted.Eggplant meatballs can be frozen. Freeze after they are baked before adding to the sauce. They can be defrosted and then simmered in the tomato sauce. Alternately, freeze the meatballs already simmered along with the tomato sauce. Defrost and heat them up in order to prepare the subs or enjoy with pasta. Please note that the nutritional value provided is approximate and may vary according to exact portion size and ingredients used.