Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer to a rimmed sheet pan and spread in an even layer. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly golden (10 minutes or so), stirring midway through. Transfer them to a large plate and set aside.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Line the sheet pan with aluminum foil and set the eggplant on top. Prick it 3 to 4 times with a fork and roast until a pairing knife easily slips into the center (40 to 50 minutes). It should be very tender throughout. Remove the eggplant from the oven and use scissors to cut an X in the bottom. Transfer it, stem side up, to a colander and set in the sink and let it drain and cool for 20 minutes.
Set the eggplant on a cutting board and slice it open lengthwise and scoop out the flesh and place it in the bowl of a food processor Add the pureed carrot (or egg), lentils, garlic, basil, parsley, and nutritional yeast (or chickpea flour) and ¾ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Process for 12 one-second pulses to combine. Add the bread crumbs and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine.
Scrape the mixture in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush against the surface, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or overnight.
Shape the eggplant mixture into golf ball-size pieces and roll them until they are nice and round.
Heat the grapeseed oil and remaining ½ cup of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Drop one of the balls into the oil, it should immediately sizzle—if not, let the oil heat some more. Add a few more balls to the oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the “meatballs” in batches, browning them on all sides (3 to 5 minutes for each batch).
Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately.
This recipe is from Raquel Pelzel's cookbook Umami Bomb.
This recipe makes anywhere from 16 to 20 meatballs.
To serve them with marinara or spaghetti sauce, warm the sauce up then add the meatballs and let them soak for a few minutes. you can also serve them as an appetizer with a sauce for dipping such as Tzatziki.
Leftover & Storage: Store leftovers in a tight-lid glass container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for 1 to 2 months. Once cooled, freeze the meatballs on a large tray for one hour, then transfer them to a container to freeze for later. Reheat from frozen in a medium-heated oven.
Nutrition information is a best estimate, not including the frying oil.