Eggplant meatballs with red sauce.

Polpette con Melanzane – Eggplant Meatless Meatball

This eggplant meatless meatball recipe is one of my family’s favorites. They love these so much that at one point I was making these almost every week. 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.  

Eggplant balls in a red sauce.

Chronicles of Eggplant Meatless Polpettes

Eggplant meatless meatballs are not a new invention, they are popular in most of the Mediterranean regions. Let’s not forget that meat was not something people ate everyday 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.

What’s unique about this Recipe?

  • Meatless: A perfect vegetarian option.
  • Make ahead: Bake and roast the eggplant chunks, then store them in the fridge until you’re ready to make the balls.
  • Perfect for parties: They make great finger food and pair well with spaghetti and red sauce, or in a hero sandwich.
  • Ideal for dinner: Serve with red sauce and grated cheese for a delicious meal!

Grocery and Pantry List

  • Eggplants: Choose medium to large size eggplants. You need to cube them and either fry or oven bake them.
  • Breadcrumbs: The breadcrumbs absorb the moisture and combine the rest of the ingredients. You can use store-bought seasoned or unseasoned, homemade breadcrumbs, or panko.
  • Eggs: The eggs act as a binder and help keep the structure
  • Parmesan cheese: Hard cheese such as parmesan give a salty and umami flavor, also browns nicely.
  • Tomato Sauce: Try my Red tomato sugo.
  • Herbs and Seasoning: Garlic and parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Oil: Using olive oil is always the best option, sometimes I will use a combination of grapeseed and olive oil.

Time Required:

Bake in 400°F(200°C) the preheated oven.

  • 20 minutes: To bake and roast
  • 10 minutes: To form balls
  • 20 minutes: to bake the ready balls

Special Tools to Use:

  • Food Processor
  • Bowls

Recipe Steps at a Glance

This eggplant polpette recipe can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Preparing the eggplant
  • Making the eggplant mixture 
  • Making and baking the balls

Step-by-step: How to Make Eggplant Meatless Meatball

Step 1: Preparing the eggplants

Start by preparing the eggplants. I keep half of the peels since I like the skin texture, but if you find the skin too tough, you can peel them completely.

Slice and cube the eggplants, then salt them. The salt draws out moisture and helps the eggplant absorb oil, giving it a creamier texture.

Once dew-like drops appear on the eggplant surface, dry them with a towel and toss them in 2 tablespoons of oil. Rub the oil in so all the cubes are coated.

Evenly distribute the cubes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place the pan in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven. The high heat will sear and brown the surface, allowing the absorbed oil to cook the interior.

Check a piece or two to ensure they are cooked through.

Oven Roasted Eggplants.

Step 2: Making the eggplant mixture

Once the eggplants are roasted, let them cool down a little bit.

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 to chop, but you want them chunky.

After you mush and grind the eggplants, add the egg, cheese, seasoning, and fresh herbs. After combining them all, 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. 

Once the eggplants are roasted, let them cool down a bit.

The easiest way to mash the cooked eggplants is with a food processor. You can also use a meat grinder or potato masher. Pulse the roasted eggplants a few times until they are chopped but still chunky.

After mashing the eggplants, add the egg, cheese, seasoning, and fresh herbs. Combine all the ingredients, then start adding breadcrumbs just enough to hold the mixture together.

You can choose to put less if you want a more delicate texture or more crumbs if you prefer a more dense structure.

Step 3: Making and baking the balls

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. 

Baking eggplant balls.

Best Way to Serve

Serve 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 ball sandwich.
  • Serve in red sauce with spaghetti
  • Make a hero sandwich
  • Serve as an appetizer with Red tomato sugo

Tips and Wisdom from Cafe Osharak

  • Partially keep the eggplant skin. The skin provides more structure and imparts some bite in terms of flavor.
  • Use a hot oven to roast the eggplant chunks and balls. This can also be done stovetop. If you decide fry the eggplants stove top, remember that it will require more oil. You also will need to fry them in smaller batches.
  • Let the eggplants cool before running through food processor. Pulse instead of running the whole time, as you want to have some chunky pieces.
  • Use good quality breadcrumbs. 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. 

Ready eggplants in a red sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze the balls?

The eggplant balls are a good option for freezing. Place the uncooked balls in a single layer on a tray and freeze them until they are firm. After that, you can combine them and store them in a freezer bag.

Why you salt the eggplants after cutting them?

The salt serves a dual purpose. It draws out water and shrinks air pockets in the eggplant’s flesh, so they absorb less oil (leading to less greasy fried or roasted eggplants.) The salt removes the bitterness from the eggplants and helps season it from the inside out, ensuring the creamy interior tastes as good as the browned exterior.

More Recipes to Try From Cafe Osharak

Eggplant Meatless Meatball – Polpette con Melanzane

These eggplant polpettes look like meatballs and make for a wonderful sandwich, or add to spaghetti or serve as a starter.
Print Recipe
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Eggplant Meatballs
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:45 minutes
Course
Main Course
Cuisine
Italian
|
Mediterranean

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 2 eggplant half peeled and cubed
  • Salt for salting the eggplants
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 teaspoon parsley plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg beaten
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 2 oz freshly grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 basil leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Slice and cube the eggplants.
  • 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 found that a red sauce from fresh tomatoes tastes best here vs. canned. But canned tomatoes can work well too.)
  • Garnish with basil and extra grated cheese.

Notes

Step-by-Step Photos: My blog post includes helpful step-by-step photos to help guide you through making this recipe.
  • Partially keep the eggplant skin. The skin provides more structure and imparts some bite in terms of flavor.
  • Use a hot oven to roast the eggplant chunks and balls. This can also be done stovetop. If you decide fry the eggplants stove top, remember that it will require more oil. You also will need to fry them in smaller batches.
  • Let the eggplants cool before running through food processor. Pulse instead of running the whole time, as you want to have some chunky pieces.
  • Use good quality breadcrumbs. 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. 

Nutrition

Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 115mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 33IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Servings: 20 Polpette /Balls
Calories: 35kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @osharak.cafe or tag #osharak.cafe!

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I Love all your tasty treats Even just looking is mouth watering. I am going try make few. Please continue with your cooking passion and shower The delicious recipes our way.

5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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