Polpette di Melanzane - Eggplant Meatballs

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For the Polpette
  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 60 g ( 1/2 cup) of grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) of breadcrumbs
  • 150 g ( 3/4 cup) of Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 220 ml (1 cup) of Grapeseed oil for frying
For the Breading
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs
  1. First you have to spend time on the eggplants. So wash them, remove the stalk, cut it into slices and then cut into small cubes of about 1 cm (half inch).
    NOTE: It’s important to make cubes that aren’t very large because otherwise you may have trouble making the meatballs later; but not too small because otherwise they will melt during cooking. Instead, inside the meatball, you should see the small pieces of eggplant.
  2. Now cook the eggplant cubes in a pan with two cloves of garlic, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt to taste, for about 5 minutes on medium heat covered witha lid.
    NOTE: to easily remove the garlic cloves, which could be confused with the eggplant pieces, one trick is to pierce them with a toothpick (read the paragraph below “About the Garlic”).
  3. Remove the garlic and add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring occasionally to allow for even cooking.
  4. When the eggplants are cooked, after about 10 minutes, turn off the heat and transfer the eggplants in a large bowl. Let it cool down a few minutes then add the other ingredients: ricotta, 1 egg, bread crumbs and grated Parmigiano cheese.
  5. Mix everything to form a compact but soft mixture. You can then move on to the breading. So prepare two dishes: one with the egg beaten with a fork and lightly salted, the other with the breadcrumbs.
  6. Grease your hands with a bit of oil and shape your polpette. Make not very big balls, about 4 cm in diameter (1 1/2 inch).
    Dip the eggplant polpette first in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. If you prefer a more consistent breading, pass the meatballs a second time in the beaten egg and then again in the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bread all the eggplant balls and then place them in a separate dish, ready to be pan-fried.
  8. Then start cooking in hot vegetable oil. Fry the meatballs turning them gently from time to time. Brown them well on all sides.
    When they are cooked, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and let them drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
    Your Italian Eggplant Meatballs are ready! Serve immediately still hot.
Note: About the Garlic
If you like the strong flavor of garlic, you can chop it up and mix it with the eggplant.
BE CAREFUL that garlic has a very intense flavor and tends to cover up the flavor of the other ingredients.
That’s why we always suggest leaving it whole and then removing it before moving on to other steps.
This does not mean that you cannot add it chopped.
We suggest in this case to use 1/2 clove of garlic, otherwise your eggplant meatballs will only taste of garlic and will be undigestible.

Baked Eggplant Meatballs

Instead of pan-frying the eggplant meatballs, you can bake them. This way you will have a lighter version even if a little less crispy.
If you want to bake the meatballs, it’s best to let the mixture rest for about an hour in the refrigerator before making the balls.
Then just dip them in breadcrumbs and place them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
Pour a drizzle of oil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking.

Italian Eggplant Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

If you prefer, you can cook the meatballs with a little tomato sauce. Let’s see how to do it.
You can first pan-fry the eggplant and ricotta cheese balls, following the steps of our recipe, then cook them for 5 more minutes in a little tomato sauce. The breadcrumbs will soak up the tomato sauce and make them taste even better! Serve with a few slices of crusty bread.
If you want to make a pasta sauce with eggplant and ricotta balls, we recommend making smaller balls. You can choose to fry them first and then heat them in the tomato sauce, or NOT dip them in egg and breadcrumbs and cook them for about 15 minutes in the tomato sauce.
In the first case you will have a richer and more flavorful dish. In the second case, a lighter and less caloric dish.

Fried Eggplant Balls with Pecorino Romano

If you prefer a stronger taste, you can replace the Parmigiano with seasoned Pecorino Romano and add a little ground black pepper. In this case, we recommend not adding salt to the polpette mixture.

Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs

If you are a vegetarian, you can easily make the eggplant meatballs recipe with a few tricks.
Eliminate the parmigiano cheese and you have a vegetarian version of Italian eggplant meatballs.
If you don’t like egg or can’t eat it, you can easily remove it from the ingredients.
The ricotta will make sure to hold the meatball mixture together.
Be careful, though, that your eggplant meatballs without egg are very soft and may break during cooking. Don’t worry because they will still be delicious!


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