A South Italian favorite that you can easily make at home! Neapolitan Eggplant Meatballs (Polpette di Melanzane) are excellent for snacks or appetizers – a vegetable treat that is always a hit!
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Up to this day, I still cannot decide which one is my favorite Italian street food – panelle or these, polpette di melanzane. It’s a tough call since they’re both deliciously addictive!
When we were in South Italy, I had them as snacks, but I always prepare them as appetizers here in Stockholm.
You might think they are too oily, but they don’t have to be.
The trick in preparing fried eggplant meatballs is to make sure that your vegetable oil is extremely hot before you start adding them into the pan – and then, of course, use some kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.
- Eggplant – you can use any type of eggplant you have, European or Asian; both will work excellently with this recipe.
- Salt & pepper
- Parmigiano Reggiano – freshly grated, if possible,
- Vegetable oil – if you prefer, you can use a bit of olive oil for roasting the eggplant; but it needs to be vegetable oil for frying.
Start by preheating the oven to 225°C (400°F).
Pour oil on the eggplants and place them on a baking tray (photo 1).
Once the oven is ready, place the baking tray inside for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until the eggplants have softened; then set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle.
Scoop the eggplants’ insides with a spoon and place them on a strainer to drain (photo 2).
Once the eggplants have been drained, place them in a medium bowl and add the parsley, cheese, half a cup of breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and egg (photo 3).
Mix with a fork to combine the mixture evenly (photo 4).
Use a tablespoon to take a portion of the mixture and form it into a ball.
Roll each ball in the remaining breadcrumbs (photo 5).
Using a medium-sized saucepan, heat vegetable oil.
Once the oil is ready, start cooking the eggplant meatballs (photo 6).
Once the balls turned brown on all sides, take them out of the pan (photo 7).
Place them on top of a kitchen paper to remove excess oil (photo 8).
- Make sure you drain as much water as you can from the roasted eggplants. I normally use a fork to push them a bit in the strainer.
- Do not add the entire ½ cup of breadcrumbs right away. Start with ¼ cup and then add more if you feel it’s still too moist.
- When frying, turn the heat lower once you’ve added the meatballs into the oil. This will prevent them from burning or browning too quickly on the outside.
- CAN I FREEZE THESE?
I don’t recommend it.
I’ve tried it a couple of times — in both instances, I ended up with slightly mushy eggplant meatballs.
- WHAT TO SERVE WITH THEM?
I like them with just a dash of salt. But if I am in the mood to eat them slowly, I always serve these eggplant meatballs with some marinara sauce.
They are best served hot but be cautious – they can burn your tongue.
For a non-vegetarian alternative, give Mini Meatballs (Polpettine di Carne) a try!
Polpette di Melanzane (Neapolitan Eggplant Meatballs Recipe)
- 2 large eggplants, (about 3/4 kg)
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, (+1/3 cup for coating)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped roughly, heaping cup
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil (or enough submerge the meatballs halfway)
- salt and pepper, to season
Preparing the eggplant:
- Preheat oven to 225°C (400°F).
- Place the eggplants on a baking tray and pour oil on them. Make sure the eggplants are properly coated with oil.
- Place the eggplants in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until they turn soft.
- Take the baking tray out of the oven and let the eggplants cool down.
- Cut the eggplants in half and scoop the insides with a spoon. Be careful; they might still be hot.
- Place the scooped eggplant on a strainer to start draining.
Assembling the eggplant balls:
- In a medium bowl, combine the strained eggplant, Parmigiano Reggiano, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and egg. Mix to combine properly.
- Start forming the balls by using a tablespoon to scoop some mixture and use your hands to form it into shape.
- Roll the eggplant balls into the remaining breadcrumbs.
Cooking polpette di melanzane:
- Heat vegetable oil on a small or medium pan. The oil should be enough to cover half of the eggplant balls.
- Once the balls turned brown on all sides, take them out of the pan and place them on top of a kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
- Eggplant meatballs are now ready for serving!
- Cook’s Tip #1: Use a fork to help push (and drain) as much liquid as you can from the roasted eggplants.
- Cook’s Tip #2: When adding breadcrumbs to the mixture, do not add the entire ½ cup of breadcrumbs right away. Start with ¼ cup and then add more if you feel it’s still too watery.
- Cook’s Tip #3: During frying, turn the heat lower once you’ve added the meatballs into the oil. This will prevent them from burning or browning too quickly on the outside.
- Cook’s Tip #4: Do not freeze them, or you will end up with slightly mushy eggplant meatballs.