What’s Cooking Wednesday: Eggplant Balls

whatscookingwednesday.jpgYes, I said eggplant balls.

Think of these as . . . meatballs without the meat. Vegetarian meatballs? Aubergine croquettes? Balls o’ eggplant? Polpette di melanzane?

Whatever you choose to call them, I call them fabulous and this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday recipe.

Yesterday was market day, which, ever since I got back from Sicily and a fabulous plate of Pasta alla Norma, has meant a handful of eggplants coming home with me.

I love eggplant balls without any kind of sauce, but you could certainly use a basic tomato sauce as a dip (such as this dipping sauce for fried mozzarella) or even something creamy like perhaps you’d use (although I don’t) for fried zucchini.

Also if you want to make them a little fancier, shape them wider and flatter instead of in balls. Either way these are *delicious* and also a great way to hide eggplant in something tasty.

Eggplant balls
(Polpette di melanzane)
[makes about 18 balls]

Eggplant balls on Flickr

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (put aside 1/4 cup for rolling before frying)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano/Grana Padano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil for frying

1. Put pot of water on high heat. When water reaches a boil, turn down the heat a bit, cut eggplants in half (and then in half again if you’re using the smaller, fatter eggplants like I do), leaving the skins on, sprinkle a good bit of salt into the water, and then add the eggplant. Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until they are tender.

2. Remove eggplant, drain, and pat dry, letting them cool before chopping them into small cubes, about 1/4 inch in size.

3. Put eggplant in large mixing bowl and add bread crumbs, garlic, cheese, parsley, basil, egg, and salt and mix well. If the mixture is too moist, add more bread crumbs.

4. Shape into balls and then roll balls in breadcrumbs.

5. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium/high heat. When oil is hot, add eggplant balls one at a time without crowding them. Turn them often with a wooden spoon to make sure all sides get brown, which should take anywhere from 3-6 minutes.

Eggplant balls (inside) on Flickr

Buon appetito!

46 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Eggplant Balls”
  1. Mmmm….croquette di melanzane…I’ll have to be honest that I might actually prefer these to (real) meatballs!!! I loved them the first time I had them! I’ll have to check out your recipe! πŸ˜€

    Sara, these are definitely neck and neck for me with real meatballs right now. *So* good πŸ™‚

  2. Gil

    Sounds good. Do you serve them as is or with some sauce?

    I like them as is, but you can definitely either put some sauce on top of them or serve with sauce for dipping.

  3. 03.12.2008

    I love eggplant, but never had them this way. Looks very yummy.

    Nadine’s last blog post..Editing Process

    Thanks Nadine; I hope you’ll give them a try πŸ™‚

  4. 03.12.2008

    How interesting! I’ll have to write that one down πŸ™‚

    Britt’s last blog post..Welcome to the Party!

    Please do Britt!

  5. 03.12.2008

    I’m not an eggplant fan, but those actually look good enough to try! I also have to admit, that after years of watching “Will and Grace,” the word “balls” makes me giggle! πŸ™‚ lol

    Giulia, I can’t tell you how many phrases I had to delete from that post…”make the balls the size you like ’em” was the first to go. Yes, I’ll be 32 this year, why?

  6. Mary

    Yumm, I make these all the time in the summer when I’ve got eggplant coming out my ears and freeze some too. I usually bake the eggplant instead of boiling it though, then I let it cool off, peel it, and run it through the food processor. I like them with tomato sauce on them too, but they’re just as good without.

    Mary’s last blog post..Park your baby – and don’t forget the handbrake

    I’ve also seen directions for baking them first too, but that would require my taking everything out of my oven and planning ahead so I’m not running any other major appliance…boiling it is πŸ˜‰ Also my MIL boils them before she makes stuffed eggplants, so I figure if it’s fine for her, it’s good for me too. And yes, a food processor is another option–I don’t have one though, so not for me. But I also like the chunks of eggplant in there…nice little surprises πŸ™‚

  7. Maryann

    Wonderfully creative dish, Michelle! Perfect for our festa Italiana πŸ™‚
    Thanks for joining us. I was hoping you would πŸ™‚

    Maryann’s last blog post..Homemade Manicotti

    Glad you like them Maryann! Can’t wait for the round-up πŸ™‚

  8. 03.12.2008

    Mmm. Those look delicious!

    Jennifer’s last blog post..i think the fish is sleeping

    There are only a few left here, so hurry if you want a sample πŸ˜‰

  9. 03.12.2008

    Wow — these sound fabulous! Something that might even convert the eggplant-skeptics around here…

    anno’s last blog post..About Yesterday

    I agree Anno; I definitely think this is a good recipe for those who aren’t crazy about eggplant.

  10. 03.12.2008

    Ohh, those look soooo good. And you know I am not a huge fan of the eggplant πŸ˜‰ It has to be done just right for me. I think I would like these though. Chris actually makes something similar with nuts. They are nut balls. Yeah..I know.

    I gotta get cookin. I’ll be participating!

    My Melange’s last blog post..The Ultimate Blog Party

    Nut balls! Hee hee…can’t wait to see what you contribute to the Festa!

  11. 03.12.2008

    those look fabulous! my little one would love them.

    Culinary Cowgirl’s last blog post..Hot, Hot, Hot…Hot Chocolate!

    *Great* finger food here indeed!

  12. 03.12.2008

    These look real good…. big fan of eggplant right here!! Roasted, breaded and pan fried, anyway you make it.. I love it.

    bella’s last blog post..stop.smell.repeat.

    Great for parties too, so if you still need an appetizer for your BIL’s shindig….

  13. 03.12.2008

    Delicious, and so easy. I love it, you say Egg Plant, I say Aubergine, whatever…

    amanda’s last blog post..Bones and stones

    *So* easy–the most time-consuming part was waiting for the eggplants to boil! Er, aubergines. You get the point πŸ˜‰

  14. Love eggplant…will be trying these!

    Yum, yum, yum.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Bedtime Stories by Trey Ellis, Kinky Gazpacho by Lori L. Tharps and The Last Single Woman in America by Cindy Guidry

    Please do!

  15. 03.12.2008

    Hmm. When you first said Balls of Eggplant, I was skeptical, but those look really good! (I think it’s time for breakfast.)

    stefanie’s last blog post..Step AWAY from the Tagalongs, Miss

    Never doubt the power of eggplant. Hope you had a great breakfast (although probably better minus the purple stuff) πŸ™‚

  16. 03.12.2008

    Tasty, tasty! I wonder if you could add any more/different veggies to this to really pack a veggie pow! Shredded zuchini maybe?

    Geggie’s last blog post..Let’s Party

    Yes yes! Veggie balls!!!!!!

  17. 03.12.2008

    Oooh! Yum. I have never heard of eggplant balls. I am sure to try this out.

    Diane Mandy’s last blog post..I’m a winner!

    To be honest Diane, neither had I until I started looking around a bit; when I saw they were possible, I basically just put in what I’d add to my meatballs. Yum πŸ™‚

  18. 03.12.2008

    Michelle, These look wonderful!! I want to make them right now! What a great addition to the Festa, and perfect for my next family party! Thank you!

    Marie’s last blog post..BRACIOLE!!

    So glad you like them Marie! These are fabulous for parties πŸ™‚

  19. ally bean

    This recipe looks great to me. Love Geggie’s idea of veggie balls, too. Thx.

    I think I’m going to have to put some zucchini in next time too πŸ™‚

  20. 03.12.2008

    Hi – I’ve popped over from Candid Karina’s blog. Just in time for your delicious-looking recipe. I love eggplant and don’t really go for meatballs. This could be the answer to my prayers.

    julia’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – 39

    So happy to hear it Julia, and thanks for coming over!

  21. 03.12.2008

    I am sooooo excited about this recipe! We joined a CSA last year here in Michigan (USA). We received several egg plants…I made Rattatoui (sp?) and I loved it…but the family is still warming to the idea of eggplant;)

    These eggplant balls just might work! I will bookmark this post and when the eggplant is back in season this summer, I will be prepared!

    Thanks! so glad to have found your site:)

    organicsyes’s last blog post..Maple Sugar Time!

    So happy you’ve found me too Susan! I wasn’t big on eggplant until I moved here, so your family is lucky to be introduced to it now πŸ™‚

  22. 03.12.2008

    awesome!! this is an excellent vegetarian option & i’ve 2 more fridays in lent…my repertoire is getting boring so this should be a nice kick! thanks!!!

    qualcosa di bello’s last blog post..doorway to adventures…

    Oh yes, great for Lent! Excellent point πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

  23. 03.12.2008

    Wow I’m jealous! Have fun in Italy!

    Tiana’s last blog post..2nd Week of Symlin

    Thanks Tiana, and thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  24. 03.12.2008

    YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ll be trying this recipe over the weekend :))

    Jane’s last blog post..The Tuna is Super Big PLUS a girl dreams Big….

    Buon appetito Jane!

  25. 03.12.2008

    YAY! Thank you for the great veggie recipe πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to try it

    erin’s last blog post..festa della donna & a bike ride

    And no oven required (unless one wanted to bake them of course) πŸ˜‰

  26. 03.12.2008

    Not a great fan of aubergine but Madam loves it. I hadn’t thought of making balls out of it. In Cuba they make balls out of ground chickpeas, garlic and parsley which I love…don’t know why I never thought of egg plant. They also make them in Greece (revithokeftedes) but of course add lemon zest and oregano and now that I think of it these are kind of like aubergine falafel. Very interesting. I will definitely give them a whirl.

    Oh you remind me that these are great with basil inside! I just don’t have any fresh basil right now or I would’ve put it in. In Sicily they make fritters with chickpeas…not sure what else is in them, but they sure are tasty. And yes, I like the aubergine falafel characterization…see, so many names!

  27. 03.12.2008

    Looks scrumptious Sognatrice! Yum!!!! Bet these babies are moist in the middle. I am a big fan of eggplant.

    Thanks for sharing!


    rochambeau’s last blog post.. ~An Open Door~

    Yes, they are fabulously moist in the middle; if you like eggplant and fried things, you’ll love these πŸ˜‰

  28. 03.12.2008

    nom nom nom

    Paolo’s last blog post..Roberto Saviano meets Donnie Brasco

    Hee hee…I’m picturing Pac-Man here after the eggplant dots all lined up in a row….

  29. 03.12.2008

    OMG Michelle, I am so hungry right about now. I have tried so many of your recipes but this one I must do like…….now.

    I just had a massage, I’m in Telluride Colorado skiing, and my masseuse who I’ve know for years, has just taken on Jessica Seinfeld as a client. She just told me…..I just somehow randomly thought I should tell you since you mentioned her.

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe.

    karen cole’s last blog post..DOOR, PUERTA, PORTA, PORTE, OVI, DEUR, DIE TUR, HURO, DOR, DRZWI, VRATA, DVERE

    That’s too funny about Jessica Seinfeld! Sounds like you’re having a lovely time even without eggplant balls πŸ˜‰

  30. 03.13.2008

    Da-yum girl! You’re recipes are not inspiring me to keep up with my diet. Anzi, you’re inspiring me to deep fry anything I can get my hands on!!!

    Linda’s last blog post..It’s a Masala Festa!!!

    Um, you can also bake these if that helps with the diet? A little? Or just use these as a cheat/treat πŸ˜‰

  31. 03.13.2008

    I can see myself grating fresh parmesan over them and popping them in my mouth. Yummee!

    Frances’s last blog post..The Ultimate Blog Party 2008

    Mmmm. Me too πŸ™‚

  32. 03.13.2008

    Beautiful! Are these a traditional Calabrian dish?
    Thank you for posting this recipe..can’t wait to try them!
    Any dream sequels? πŸ™‚

    Laurie’s last blog post..Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Crema di Fontina

    Good question Laurie; my guess is that they are somewhat Calabrian in origin (I have seen a recipe for them in a Calabrian cookbook). They are actually basically the insides of the stuffed eggplants that my MIL makes just fried without the eggplant around them…although I’ve never seen her make them this way exactly.

    No dream sequels worth mentioning, although lots of weird ones as always πŸ™‚

  33. 03.13.2008

    Oh those look very yummy!

    Shan’s last blog post..what’s cooking wednesday – jalapeno cheese bread

    I know you’re not eggplant freaks up there, but you can always try out other veggies….

  34. 03.13.2008

    Never met an eggplant I didn’t like πŸ™‚ Definitely going to try these. My daughter recently started working at an upscale restaurant. While visiting her last week she brought home two tapas each night to share and one night she brought home Japanese eggplant with fresh tomato salsa and romano cheese. OMG it was so good!

    Kim’s last blog post..Not-So-Annual Big Birthday Bash

    Oh that sounds really good! Lucky you πŸ™‚

  35. 03.13.2008

    I love eggplant. I can’t wait to try them

    Grace’s last blog post..Stress Release: Beauty

    Let me know what you think Grace!

  36. 03.13.2008

    These look delicious! I am going to have to try them. Thanks for the recipe.

    Busymama Karen’s last blog post..Catching Shrimp at Ala Wai Harbor

    You’re very welcome Karen; I hope you give them a go!

  37. 03.13.2008

    Oh WOW! I’m soooo glad you visited my site. I’m so jealous of YOU living in Italy and I LOVE eggplant. Though I usually mix them with ground beef for something my grandma called Pitzi Utzi!
    Thanks for inviting me to your blog party. I haven’t made it there yet!

    Gina Conroy’s last blog post..Life’s a Three Ring Circus

    Interesting on the name…definitely sounds like some kind of dialect. I’m sure they’re great with meat in too πŸ™‚

  38. 03.13.2008

    ooh, my mom used to try and trick me with these all the time when i was little and didn’t like eggplant! but i knew they weren’t meatballs.

    michelle @ TNS’s last blog post..Cliffhanger!

    Hah! No I don’t think you’d *mistake* these for meatballs, but they’re still pretty good πŸ˜‰

  39. 03.13.2008

    These look great. And it seems kind of brilliant to take the scrumptious stuffing of something and make polpettini (which I’m sure I spelled wrong) out of them. How do you serve them? They look like they would mix in well with almost any course.

    Meg’s last blog post..Fritto Misto for Brainwashing

    In the traditional Italian meal, these would probably be best as an appetizer, although since in my house we’re allowed to eat things alongside the pasta, they’d work well there too, I think πŸ™‚

  40. 03.14.2008

    These sound devine. Made me really hungry for some. Anything mixed with cheese is good in my book.

    cheeky’s last blog post..A Sign of Promise

    Oh I hear you there; you put cheese in it, and I’m good πŸ™‚

  41. 03.15.2008

    My oh my but these just sound incredible!!

    Bellini Valli’s last blog post..The Dessert That Never Was……..or…..I’ll Bet You Can’t Eat Just One…

    Thanks Bellini…they are definitely my latest addiction πŸ™‚

  42. 03.20.2008

    I have NEVER had these, but I would DEFINITELY prefer them to regular old meatballs.


    Cherrye’s last blog post..Heart Palm Leaves Make the Heart Happy

    These are super easy to make too Cherrye–next week you’re getting eggplants in Soverato!

  43. These are fabulous Michelle! Yummalicious, as I like to say. Anything with eggplant makes my heart go pitter patter…it must be the Sicilian in me! πŸ™‚

    JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen’s last blog post..Farmer’s Market Costs vs. Grocery Store Costs

    Hah! Now *that’s* a compliment–thanks Jenn!

  44. 03.27.2008

    Thank you for this recipe! I love eggplant, and this sounds delicious.

    Do you happen to have a Calabrian recipe for baby eggplants stuffed with a cooked potato/eggplant/ bread mixture? It is dipped in eggs and romano cheese and then fried. My in-laws make it, and it is so good, but they can never seem to give me instructions or amounts for the ingrediants so that I can make them myself.


    Pat in NY

    Pat’s last blog post..A Day In Lower Manhattan

    We don’t do stuffed eggplants exactly like that, but I think you’ve already found our version. Enjoy!

  45. 04.03.2008

    I am looking at your recipes and I love eggplant definitely going to try this one!
    Do you have a recipe for Arancini?

    Lucy’s last blog post..It’s A Beautiful Day

    Please do Lucy! I actually have never made arancini, but Marla at Bella Baita View has a recipe here:

    Risotto revisited or arancini tonight anyone?

  46. Kristi

    I know I am late to the game on this one, but I just found your blog and then saw some amazing recipes yesterday, including this one. I am also a relatively new “foodie” and learning new ways to cook all the time (I read recipes sometimes and have no idea what’s going on). Anyways, I have always wanted to buy eggplant (ex didn’t care for it) and two weeks in a row, I bought eggplant. However, I didn’t know what to do with them, especially since I don’t have a grill (that’s all I’ve seen done to them before). I tried this sauteed version last week from Mario Batalli and it was okay. I saw this yesterday and was like yes, this is right up my alley.

    This was such a great recipe. I used low fat regular parmesan cheese and no parsley. The breadcrumb part was delicious. However, I needed more moisture to make the balls. They wouldn’t stick and when I tried to turn them over, they would all fall apart. I think that I will make the eggplant parts either much smaller (those worked for some of them) or maybe chop them up completely to have little chunks in there similar to something like crab cakes. I will also add more moisture. Oh and maybe I will use a smaller eggplant. I ran out of breadcrumbs before I ran out of eggplant.

    For some reason, I cooked for 4 or 5 people (don’t ask me about my steamed rice) when it was just little ole’ me. I also made this with sauteed shrimp and I must say it was very delicious.

    Thank you for bringing me a new great recipe that I can try over and over until somewhat perfection!

    Glad you enjoyed the recipe, Kristi! I love that this is both a different way to prepare eggplant *and* a different way to prepare “meatballs” — fun for everyone πŸ™‚



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