Eggplant Polpette (aka Eggplant Meatballs)

Cooking with Rocco
by Cooking with Rocco
18 Meatballs
1 hr 20 min

To get my most up to date recipes, and be the first to know. Follow my instagram and visit my website. But in the meantime, let's make some Eggplant Polpette...

I’m a sucker for a good meatball, and I know everyone has their own meatball recipes with their own little twist. But does everyone have their own Eggplant Polpette recipe?

Eggplant Polpette, just as they sound, are meatless meatballs made entirely from eggplants. I’d like to consider them the Meatball’s cousin, because they use pretty much all the same ingredients (plus some) as a traditional meatball but with eggplant instead of meat. They’re tender, fluffy, and packed with so much flavor, you’ll never know they’re completely meatless.

First thing first - shopping for eggplants can be tricky. You want to make sure each eggplant is free from any scars, bruising, or discoloring…seems pretty obvious, right? But you also want to pick up the eggplants and make sure that they’re firm and have some weight to them. This is pretty much true for a lot of fruits (yes I’m getting a little technical here since they’re considered botanical fruits), such as tomatoes and bell peppers.

Because eggplants contain a lot of water, you want to peel and cut the eggplant into 1 inch pieces, season with salt, and then roast them in a 400º oven for about 40 minutes. You’ll get most of the moisture (but not all) out of the eggplants. Once they’re done roasting, you want to mash the eggplant with a fork to eliminate any large chunks.

Eggplant Polpette (aka Eggplant Meatballs)
Recipe details
  • 18  Meatballs
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 1 Hours Total time: 1 hr 20 min
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  • 2 medium eggplants (or 1 large), peeled and diced into one inch cubes (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, pureed with its water squeezed out.
  • 10 garlic cloves, roasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole coriander, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, to desired consistency (see notes)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400º, and spray a sheet tray with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Evenly scatter the eggplant across the sheet tray. Then evenly scatter the garlic (in its skin) across the sheet tray as well. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes. 
While the eggplant cooks, puree the onion and set aside on a cheese cloth or paper towel to soak up the excess water. 
Then add the pine nuts, whole coriander, and fennel seeds to a small skillet set over medium-heat. Toast until fragrant and nuts begin to brown. Once toasted, add the nuts and seeds to a mortar and pestle, and crush everything into a paste. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop everything or add it to a food processor. Once crushed, set aside. 
When the eggplant is done, add it to a medium bowl. Then peel the garlic and using your knife (or a fork), press the roasted garlic into a paste. Add the roasted garlic paste to the bowl with the eggplant, and using a fork, start mushing the eggplant until its broken down but still a little chunky.  
Add the fresh parsley, fresh oregano, egg, parmigiano, red pepper flakes, pine nut/coriander/fennel paste, salt, and pepper. Then add the breadcrumbs 1/4 cup at a time until the eggplant reaches a firm consistency to where it will hold its shape once rolled into a ball. You will need to adjust the breadcrumbs depending on how watery your eggplant is. 
Roll each polpette into golf ball sized balls, and then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast at 400º for another 15 minutes. Then serve with your favorite pomodoro sauce. If you want my easy pomodoro recipe, click the link to my instagram or my website in the beginning of this post (under the name of the dish)!
  • I did not add a measurement for the breadcrumb. The reason is because every eggplant has a different amount of water. When you add the breadcrumbs to the eggplant, you'll want to go by feel. Meaning, add enough breadcrumbs (1/4 cup at a time) to where the eggplant is firm and will hold its shape when rolled into a ball.
Cooking with Rocco
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  • Aimee Aimee on Aug 10, 2021

    What a great vegetarian alternative. Yum!

  • Joanna Joanna on Dec 01, 2021

    In the oven now, Can't wait to eat them but unless I missed it you never said when to add the pureed onion so I forgot about it. I found it once all the balls were made so I had to add it & re make them.