This eggplant meatless meatball recipe is one of my family’s favorites. They love these so much, that at one point I was making this almost every week. And since they are lighter, we tend to prefer them over their meaty counterpart. They proudly stand out on their own and don’t need to be dredged in the sauce.
Serve it as a fun bite-size appetizer, with other vegetables, or with spaghetti. We love to put them in a roll and eat them parmigiana-style in a sandwich with just a little cheese and sauce.
Eggplant balls are not new inventions, they are popular in most of the Mediterranean regions. Let’s not forget that meat was not something people eat every day since the meat was not always accessible or affordable. So people used surplus vegetables for their daily meals. This polpette recipe is from the Calabria region of Italy, popular for its eggplant and Calabrian chilies.
How to make the eggplant meatless meatball?
Preparing the eggplants:
Start by preparing the eggplants. I keep half of the peels since I like the texture but if you find that skin is too tough you can completely peel them.
Slice and cube the eggplants and salt them. The salt draws the moisture out and helps absorb the oil, giving the eggplant a creamier texture.
Once I see dew-like drops on the eggplant surface, I dry them with the towel and then toss them into 2-tablespoons of oil. I rub the oil so all the cubes get coated.
I evenly distribute them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. This goes into a 400°F ( 200 °C) preheated oven. You need that heat to sear and brown the surface so the absorbed oil will do its job and cook the interior.
Check a piece or two to make sure that the eggplants are softened.
The easiest way to mash the cooked eggplants are with a food processor. You can use a meat grinder or potato masher. Pulse the roasted eggplants a few times chopped but still chunky.
Making the balls
After you mush and grind the eggplants a, add the egg, cheese, seasoning, and fresh herbs. After combining them all, I start adding the breadcrumbs just enough to hold the mixture together.
You can use store-bought seasoned or unseasoned, homemade breadcrumbs, or panko.
The breadcrumbs are supposed to draw out moisture and combine the rest of the ingredients.
You can choose to put less if you want a more delicate texture or more crumbs if you prefer a more dense structure.
Divide the mixture and shape them into golf-size balls. These will go into the oven for a second bake. The second bake will solidify the balls into their shape, sear, and cook them throughout.
Serve it with the red sauce and grated cheese and voila you have the perfect dinner!
Eggplant Meatless Meatball – Polpette con Melanzane
- 1-2 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 2 eggplant half peeled and cubed
- Salt for salting the eggplants
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tbsp parsley plus leaves for garnish
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg beaten
- teaspoon salt
- teaspoon black pepper
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese freshly grated, plus more for serving
- 1 basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Season the cubed eggplants with salt. Let them stand for 10-20 minutes. Pat dry with a towel and transfer them into a baking sheet and spread them into a single layer. Roast them for 20-30 minutes or until the eggplants are nicely browned and the inside is soft and creamy.
- Transfer the eggplants into the food processor and pulse a few times. You still want to see some chunkiness. Transfer the eggplants into a bowl and mix in the beaten eggs.
- Add the grated cheese, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper and mix to distribute them evenly. Start adding the breadcrumbs. You don’t want the mixture to be too stiff, so don’t add the whole cup.
- Divide the eggplant mixture into 18-20 balls and place them on the baking sheet.
- Bake them for additional 20 minutes (on parchment) until they are firm and browned.
- Serve with a red sauce or drizzle the sauce on top. (We find that a red sauce from fresh tomatoes is always best here vs. canned. But canned tomatoes can work well too.)
- Garnish with basil and extra grated cheese.