My boyfriend Matt and I recently moved in together, and cooking is one of our favorite things to do as a couple. We’ve started making our own traditions, and food is a huge part of that. We watch all sorts of cooking shows, and we pull inspiration from the weirdest places. We’ll sit in the kitchen after work with a glass of wine, and we’ll pick four completely random ingredients (name that show!) and see what sort of dish we can make. It’s been a great way to get used to being under the same roof, and we always end up laughing, whether our meal is a great victory or a fiery disaster.
Early last summer, I made the decision to become vegetarian. If you know anything about me, you would have stared at me in shock, dumbfounded, with a blank look on your face (and in reality, some people actually did). From a medium-rare steak to pulled pork nachos to seafood gumbo, I ate it all. I had multiple reasons for ditching meat, all of which I’m planning to talk about tomorrow 🙂 … but a meat-free life left me with quite the conundrum: what exactly do I eat?
Adding to the issue? Matt is most definitely not a vegetarian. Trying to find a happy medium that keeps us from cooking six separate meals a day can be a chore. We love cooking together, but we don’t like it that much!
That’s where Ragu Homestyle sauce comes in. Ragu has been around for eighty years. 8-0 years, guys. Food companies don’t stick around that long unless their products are good with a capital yum, and this new sauce was no exception. Our little family is made up of garlic fiends (dog included), so out of all of the available sauces, I chose the roasted garlic sauce for the best possible outcome.
Plus, chances are good that if I smothered a tire in garlic, cheese, and a great tomato sauce, Matt would love it. Surprisingly, when I’ve given him quotation meat (you know the kind: “beef” crumbles, “chicken” strips), he’s always liked it, so I felt confident that, with Ragu and mozzarella on my side, we could hit a home run.
I mean, these meatballs look legit, right?
The most work I had to do in this entire recipe was with the meatballs, and even that only took about fifteen minutes. If you want to make it happen even quicker, you can get veggie meatballs in the frozen section of your grocery store.
I added the sauce to the pan at the very end and simmered everything for a few minutes, just to get the meatballs swimming in that sauce. I pulled them out and added them to mozzarella-lined ciabatta rolls and baked them into cheesy, saucy goodness.
Doesn’t that make you want to dive head-first into a meatball sandwich?
It’s a beautiful thing, a vegetarian dupe that actually tastes like something worth eating.
Have I talked you into it yet?
Ok. I’ll ease the suspense. Here’s how you do it.
- 1 eggplant, diced
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 c. Italian bread crumbs
- 1 tbs. chopped basil
- 1 tbs. chopped parsley
- 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- Cooking spray
- 6 sandwich buns of your choice (I used ciabatta rolls)
- 12 slices mozzarella cheese
- 3 tbs. melted butter
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 tbs. chopped basil
- 1 jar Ragu Homestyle Roasted garlic sauce
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Combine eggplant (yep, do it raw), beaten egg, bread crumbs, chopped herbs and Parmesan in a maxing bowl. You may need more breadcrumbs depending on the size of your eggplant and the size of your egg. Mix until it makes a firm sort of goo (y'all know the texture I'm talking about), and place i the fridge to chill for at least fifteen minutes.
- In a large baking dish, add cooking spray to the bottom and sides. Place the bottoms of the sandwich rolls in the dish - with my ciabatta rolls, six fit almost perfectly. Layer a slice of mozzarella on top and set aside. You have to wait on your meatballs now.
- Warm up a skillet to a little over medium with some olive oil. Get out your eggplant meatball goo and roll into balls. Place them into the skillet to cook. Let them brown on all sides. Keep an eye on them, they cook quickly and (unlike meat meatballs), you have no worries about poisoning your family if you undercook them.
- Prepare a medium pot on the stove. Heat to medium and add your jar of Ragu to warm. Let your meatballs go swimming in that sauce for fifteen to twenty minutes so they can soak in that tomato goodness.
- Transfer your meatballs (approximately two per sandwich) to your baking dish. Add another slice of mozzarella on that, and then the top of the sandwich roll. melt your butter with garlic and basil, and brush on the top. Place in the oven for about ten minutes, just long enough to brown the tops of the rolls and melt the cheese.
See? I wasn’t lying. It’s easy and delicious. If you want to ease up on the calories, use only one layer of mozzarella, and you can opt for low-cal. You could also add zucchini to the meatballs or, like I said, so my typical route and get the pre-packaged frozen veggie meatballs.
If you’re a new vegetarian, Italian food is a great place to start. I wandered over to the Ragu website and found a ton of recipes. Seriously. Go check it out. Just browsing through them in the last week or so, I’ve gotten a few ideas that will make our dinnertime traditions easier and tastier. Viva Ragu, y’all.
I’m tellin’ ya. If it can get Louiepup’s seal of approval, it’s definitely something you need to try.
Woof woof. Ragu.