Entrees · Gluten Free · Pasta · Recipes

Eggplant Marinara Meatballs with Cashew Mozzarella! (Vegan)


Craving a good healthy Italian dinner? Yeah, same.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good date night out on the town, but sometimes there is nothing better than cooking a really tasty meal and not having to see people while you do it. My favorite Italian dishes involve eggplant (swoons). Eggplant is extremely nutritious and versatile. It can be a little intimidating to cook at first, but once you get the hang of it – you’ll never pass it up in the grocery store again! 

To me, few things are as satisfactory as a hearty Italian dinner! (with eggplant)

Creating vegan meatballs and mozzarella was probably one of the most challenging recipes I’ve ever attempted. I love a good eggplant parm dish, for real. However, I wanted meatballs. I know, I know, “why are you vegan and craving meatballs?” you might be asking. Well, quite frankly, because I’m a human being.

 Being vegan does not excuse me, or anyone, from craving Italian food, like ever.

Aside from the obvious lack of animals and dairy [spoiler alert] vegan meatballs might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not about the meat aspect. It’s about the physical consistency and amazing flavors that really make it a staple in this dish.

This version of the classic meatball is so good for you! Texture-wise it’s much softer and easier to manage. Because of the chickpeas and the breadcrumbs there is so much flavor getting absorbed.

As for the Cashew Mozzarella. Like we all know, cashews are seriously a dream come true for vegans or anyone lactose intolerant. Keep in mind this is more of a “melted mozzarella.” After blended it stays creamy, but once it is baked the outside becomes slightly crisp and the inside is oozy.




Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Total Time: 60 min

Author: The Winey Vegan
Recipe type: Entree, Italian
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 4-8
Photos by Emily Morris

Eggplant Marinara Meatballs


  • 1 package whole wheat pasta (or gluten free)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 lb unpeeled eggplant, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp basil
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 – 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (or gluten free)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Toppings (optional)

  • Red chili flakes
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Extra Marinara Sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package. Drain and set aside.
  3. While pasta is cooking, prep eggplant. Slice it into 1/2″ rounds and pat them with paper towels to absorb most of their moisture before sauteing.
  4. Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and saute for 5-10 minutes until eggplant is soft. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
  5. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and saute the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to the food processor along with the drained chickpeas, parsley and spices and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed.
  6. Transfer processed mixture to a large bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs and red chili. Make sure the entire mixture is combined well and taste for salt then roll into 12 meatballs, about 2-inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, thoroughly browning on both sides. While the eggplant meatballs are baking, prepare the Cashew Mozzarella(see recipe below).
  7. In an oven-safe skillet or cast iron place the baked eggplant a few inches apart and cover with marinara sauce. Dollop the cashew mozzarella onto the eggplant Bake for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the cashew mozz is lightly browned and firm on the outside, but oozy on the inside.
  8. Serve warm with freshly cooked pasta!


Cashew Mozzarella


  • 1/2 C raw cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours)
  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper


  1. Drain and rinse the raw cashews from the soaking water. Add to a blender with almond milk, lemon juice, starch, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and white pepper and combine until very smooth. Adjust seasonings to your liking.
  2. Store extra cashew mozzarella in airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.



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