1 rib celery, diced small (about 1/3 cup, optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 unpeeled Italian eggplants, diced into about 1/2-1″ cubes (about 10.5-11 cups diced)*
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped and loosely packed
1/4 cup tempeh bacon
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
1/4–1/3 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2–3/4 cups vegetable broth, as needed
Marinara of choice
Make the chia egg by mixing the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl, and set aside to thicken for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F on convection*. Line 2-3 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water in a large pan over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions, garlic, and celery, and cook until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes (adding more broth as needed to prevent burning). Transfer to a large bowl.
In the same pan, add another 1/2 cup more water or broth with the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until it is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. If needed, cook in two batches and add more broth to prevent burning.
Once cooked, add to the large bowl along with the garbanzo beans, parsley, tempeh, oats, and basil. Mix until uniform, then place into a food processor in two batches and pulse until chopped and combined but NOT pureed. If needed, you can pulse and also mash down with a fork later on in the bowl to prevent a pureed consistency.
Place the mixture back into the large bowl and add in the remaining ingredients (breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, dried oregano, garlic powder, liquid smoke, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper). Adjust salt to taste, then roll into 30-35 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet(s) and bake until firm and browned, about 20-24 minutes.
Serve warm with marinara and pasta or zucchini noodles or even make a meatball sub in a roll with vegan cheese.