Italian Eggplant Meatballs (Polpette di Melanzane) are delicious veggie balls made with eggplant, ricotta cheese and parmigiano. You can bread them and pan fry or bake, we’re going to show you both cooking methods.
They are perfect for a delicious finger food party or an aperitivo with friends. With a side of a salad or fresh vegetables, these Italian Eggplant balls are also an excellent complete dish.
Eggplant and ricotta meatballs is a tasty and easy vegetable recipe that everyone will love, even the children who, as we all know, do not particularly like vegetables.
The fresh ricotta gives creaminess to the filling and creates an incredible contrast of textures with the crunchy crust made of egg and bread crumbs.
Crispy outside and creamy inside, Italian Eggplant meatballs will conquer even the most demanding palates with their intense flavor and their crunchiness.
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- Eggplant Parmigiana
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- Zucchini Meatballs
- Eggplant Rollatini Recipe
How to Make Italian Eggplant Meatballs (Polpette)
- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 10 Min
- Yelds: 6/8
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
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
To make Italian Eggplant Meatballs recipe, you need for sure a cutting board on which to prepare the diced eggplant. The plastic cutting boards that are easy to wash even in the dishwasher are very handy and practical.
Eggplant and ricotta cheese balls are a perfect dish for parties or appetizers with friends. You can serve these Italian Fried Meatballs hot, right after frying, in original paper towel cones for practical and original single-portions.
There are handy rustic-looking Grease Absorbing cones on the market. They are perfect for any fried food, meatballs, croquettes, chips, popcorn. You can also use food Paper Sheets to form the cones or you can place them on top of the serving dish to absorb the grease.
Step 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.
Step 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”).
Step 3) – Remove the garlic and add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring occasionally to allow for even cooking.
Step 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.
Step 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.
How to Bread and Pan-Fry Eggplant Meatballs
Now we are going to show you how to bread and fry eggplant meatballs.
Know that you can easily BAKE them these. If you are interested in baking them, SKIP the next steps and read the paragraph below “Baked Eggplant Meatballs”.
Step 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.
Step 7) – Bread all the eggplant balls and then place them in a separate dish, ready to be pan-fried.
Step 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.
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.
Like all fried dishes, it would be best to eat Italian Eggplant and Ricotta Meatballs immediately.
If you fried the meatballs and they are leftover, you can store them in the refrigerator – in a foil-covered dish or food container – for no more than 48 hours and then reheat them in the oven at 200°C (390 F) or eat them at room temperature.
Another way to enjoy leftover eggplant meatballs is to reheat them in a little tomato sauce. This way you will get a new and very tasty dish or a sauce for pasta. The meatballs will become softer and absorb the flavor of the sauce, a real treat! (see next paragraph).
Once the mixture is made, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 1 day.
We do not recommend freezing.
Italian Eggplant Meatballs: Some Variants
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.
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.
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!