Eggplant Polpette poorly translated into English as Eggplant “Meatballs” is actually a vegetarian dish. The word polpette commonly refers to meat patties cleverly enhanced with herbs, cheese and bread to extend whatever meat is on hand. Over the years, the word seems to have become synonymous with any type of meatball. Polpette is also used when referring to Italian vegetable based patties; Eggplant Polpette are a standard dish, particularly in the southern regions of Italy. Eggplant makes an excellent base for this type of preparation; once it is cooked, it is easy mashed and combines well with numerous flavoring agents. Oh, did I mention the Eggplant Polpette are fried…and honestly who wouldn’t love crispy fried eggplant morsels of goodness?
Summer gardens are bursting with all sorts of vegetables and eggplant is at the top of the list. Select eggplants with a shiny deep purple skin, with little or no bruising. Many years ago, an older Italian neighbor gave me a lesson in how to choose just the right eggplant; it should be heavy for it’s size and not too big. There are many old wives tales about selecting eggplant; male or female, salting or not salting, bitterness, seeds and I could go on. Over the years, it has been my experience that freshness is a key factor in the quality of the eggplant you use; buy fresh and use when you purchase.
As eggplant is the base of this wonderful little appetizer, it is important to cook the eggplant in such a way as to achieve the optimal flavor. Most recipes for Eggplant Polpette required that the eggplant be boiled. Dabbling with Israeli cuisine has taught me otherwise; roasting is the ultimate way to enhance the flavor of eggplant. Charring the outside skin renders the flesh creamy with a smoky flavor that becomes the primary element for any eggplant dish; trust me there is nothing like roasted eggplant. An added bonus – roasting involves little clean up, where as boiling necessitates one more pot to wash.
Gently mashing the warm flesh of the eggplant creates the ideal texture for adding other ingredients. The elements here are quite simply Italian; eggs, cheese, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper. What separates this particular Eggplant Polpette from others is freshly grated nutmeg – stai attenti (be careful) as nutmeg has a powerful presence and you do not want to overpower the delicate polpette.
Dried breadcrumbs help to absorb any residual water from the roasted eggplant and create a polpette that will hold together well. Once the polpette are formed, give them a light coating of the dried breadcrumbs and refrigerate for an hour.
Eggplant Polpette are best fried in canola, corn or sunflower oil. Although I adore the taste of olive oil, the smoking point is too low. Frying the polpette in one of the other oils allow them to brown quickly without absorbing too much oil.
Eggplant Polpette make the perfect appetizer or side dish. They can be served at room temperature, but I warn you – your friends and family will be standing by as you fry, ready to snatch a few straight from the pan.
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- 2½ pounds of eggplant, select medium sized eggplant with shiny deep purple skin free of bruising
- ¾ cup of dried breadcrumbs
- 1½ cup grated Parmigiano
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 cup of dried breadcrumbs for coasting the polpette
- Salt Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 cup of either corn, canola or sunflower oil for frying the polpette
- Parsley sprigs for garnishing the serving platter
- Preheat your broiler to high, adjust the top shelf to the second level from the top. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Wash and dry the whole eggplants, make 5 or 6 slits in the skin of both. Place the eggplant on the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven. After 30 minutes, turn the eggplant over and continue to char for an additional 30 minutes. At this point the eggplants should be nicely charred all the way around. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the eggplant in a colander over a bowl or in the sink. Break open the skin and allow any residual water to drain. Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place it into a large mixing bowl. Using a table fork, break up the larger pieces of eggplant flesh creating a uniform consistency.
- Add the chopped parsley leaves, parmigiano, ¾ cup of dried breadcrumbs, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Combine the ingredients gently with a fork and make a well in the center. Add the 2 large eggs to the well, gently breaking them up with a fork. Begin to combine the eggs with the contents of the bowl until you have a rather thick mixture. If it seems too wet, add a bit more dried bread crumbs, but be sure to adjust the salt, pepper and nutmeg if you include additional dried breadcrumbs. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set.
- Remove the polpette mixture from the refrigerator, have the cup of dried breadcrumbs on a sheet of parchment or large plate along with a clean tray to place the formed polpette on.
- Using your hands, take enough of the mixture to make a 2 inch ball. Once a ball or polpette is formed, place it in the breadcrumbs, flattening to make a little pattie. Cover both sides lightly with the dried breadcrumbs and place on the tray. Once you have formed and coated all of the polpette, place the tray in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Heat the cup of oil in a large heavy duty skillet over medium high heat; have a paper towel lined platter nearby. Once the oil has become hot place the polpette into the skillet of hot oil without crowding them. Fry the polpette for two minutes on each side and remove to the paper towel lined platter. Remove the polpette to a serving tray and garnish with parsley sprigs. They may be enjoyed immediately or served at room temperature.