If you aren't a fan of eggplant, then Calabria might not be the region for you. Calabria is the orange region on the map of Italy to the right; the region that represents the toe of the boot. In northern Italy, the eggplant, which was brought to Europe in the Middle Ages, was not very well accepted. However, in Southern Italy, particularly the regions of Sicily and Calabria, the eggplant took off. Used in dozens of recipes, it is an ingredient with immense flexibility.
Though I made Eggplant Parmesan while working on the Campagna region, Calabria is another region that lays claim to that classic dish. However, there are plenty of other regional recipes that highlight the eggplant as well. With its meatiness, it makes great vegetarian dishes since it feels like you're eating something really substantial. However, nothing negates the health benefits of a perfectly good vegetarian dish like breading and frying it. That is basically what this recipe for Eggplant Meatballs, or Polpette di Melanzane, does. Personally, I'm not complaining. It was absolutely delicious, and makes for a perfect antipasto dish! You can bake these if you would rather, which would help make it healthier.
Every recipe for Eggplant Meatballs that I found called for boiling the eggplant to cook it. Personally, I am not a fan of this. I love roasted eggplant. Besides getting a great flavor by roasting it with just a little olive oil, it's a lot easier to get the moisture out this way. Eggplant is full of liquid, and so for me roasting makes more sense than boiling. However, feel free to boil them if you would like! I also added some red pepper flake, as southern Italian food almost always carries a kick to it. The heat from the pepper flakes was perfect. I also recommend making these meatballs very small. If you are frying the meatballs, they spend very little time in the oil. Therefore, if they are too large, the inside can remain mushy after they are done frying. By keeping the size small though, the outside gets a delicious, perfect crunch while the inside stays moist, but not mushy. You can serve these with some marinara sauce, but honestly, they don't need it. I ate them plain and they were amazing. This is one that I can't wait to make again!
Eggplant Meatballs - Polpette di Melanzane
Adapted fromCooking with Patty
-Makes about 20 meatballs-
1 eggplant weighing about 1 pound
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, plus extra for breading
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Vegetable oil for frying
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Peel the eggplant. Dice into small pieces. Be aware that the eggplant will shrink as it roasts as well.
- Lay the eggplant in a single layer on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt, and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out some of the liquid in the eggplant. Pat dry with another paper towel.
- Put the eggplant on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Put in the oven until the eggplant is well browned. Depending on the size of the pieces you chopped, this will take about 10 minutes.
- Put the eggplant in a bowl. Add one egg, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, the parmesan cheese, and the red pepper flakes. Mix well.
- Form small meatballs out of the eggplant mixture, about the size of a walnut.
- Roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. I found that my eggplant mixture was moist enough to hold the breadcrumbs on as they were. However, if your mixture is drier, you can dip the meatballs in the second egg before rolling them in the breadcrumbs.
- Heat enough oil to fry the meatballs in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the oil is hot, drop in the meatballs in batches. Fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil to a paper towel to drain.
- Serve hot.
Ryan's Sue's rating of Eggplant Meatballs - 5.