Put the tomatoes into a saucepan over medium heat. Add the thyme leaves, bay leaf, oregano, garlic powder, sugar, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Preheat the broiler.
Put the beef and pork into a large bowl and add the parsley, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, eggs, and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a small ball; repeat. You will get about 80 small meatballs. Put them onto a sheet pan and broil until they are browned and cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Toss them in the olive oil.
To serve: Using long skewers, skewer on a gnocchi, a meatball, and then another gnocchi. Press the top gnocchi into the crushed sweet pepper. Cut an eggplant in half lengthwise and put it cut side down onto a platter. Stick the finished skewers into the eggplant. Serve with a bowl of warm marinara on the side for dipping.
Recipe courtesy of George Duran