Eggplant ‘Meatballs’ (Polpette di Melanzane)

Eggplant  is a prominent ingredient in Italian cooking, and it is prepared in many ways. These eggplant balls are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a lot of flavor, and are a great vegetarian appetizer or main course. As usual, it pairs well with tomatoes and basil.


Makes 8 polpette, 1-2 per person as antipasti or 3-4 per person as a vegetarian main course

2 eggplants, about 700 grams (1.8 lbs) total weight

100 grams (3.5 oz) stale bread, cubed

2 eggs

50 grams (1.8 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

16 basil leaves, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

oil for frying

For the tomato sauce

250 ml (1 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree, passata di pomodoro)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork.

Bake the eggplant at 200C/400F until soft, about an hour. Allow them to cool a bit so you won’t burn your fingers. Then cut them in half lengthwise, trim the ends and discard, scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon. Discard the skin.

Put the eggplant flesh in a food processor together with the eggs, stale bread, and garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Process until smooth.

Transfer the eggplant puree to a bowl. Add the grated parmigiano and basil.

Stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow this mixture to firm up in the refrigerator.

To make the tomato sauce, combine olive oil, sieved tomatoes, salt, and pepper in a frying pan.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer until nice and thick, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Shape the eggplant mixture into 8 balls. Cover each ball with dried breadcumbs…

…making sure it is completely covered on all sides to prevent leaking.

Deep fry the eggplant balls in oil of 180C/350F until golden brown on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 4 minutes.

Do not cook too many at the same time, as otherwise the oil temperature will drop by too much.

Allow to drain on paper towels.

Serve with the tomato sauce.

Wine pairing

This is great with a dry full bodied rosé.



Sancrau alla Piemontese is savoy cabbage braised with wine vinegar, anchovies, garlic, butter, and olive oil. The resulting side dish has a nice flavor that while still recognizable as cabbage, is nicer and fresher than that of regular savoy cabbage.

12 thoughts on “Eggplant ‘Meatballs’ (Polpette di Melanzane)

  1. Main course of course 🙂 ! Love eggplant but have never attempted anything of this kind ! Deep frying goes somewhat against the grain, but . . . ! . .. so passata and panko Down Under . . . 🙂 !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose you could bake them in the oven instead, but they would have to be less liquid (by simmering the eggplant puree to dry it out) for them to keep shape. Or you could bake them in a shape to make sformatini.


  2. Mmmm! Sembrano buonissime! Mi chiedevo Stefano come mai nella salsa di pomodoro non metti un po’ di soffritto di cipolla… pensavo fosse tipico italiano fare il sugo di pomodoro con la base di cipolla… ma forse e’ un’abitudine solo del Nord Italia…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore eggplant and this unique preparation looks delicious. I can just imagine how creamy the inside will be juxtaposed against the crispy outside, it must be a wonderful textural experience. Bite-size versions would make lovely hors d’œuvres for the holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another outstanding recipe. I like the idea for bite-size appetizers (or tasting spoon) presented on a bit of the tomato sauce.
    Maybe they can served cool or chilled as well. I might try to see how the texture and taste change. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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