• Eggplant polpettine (polpettine di melanzane) (Paola Bacchia)

These meatless "tiny eggplant meatballs" are so moist and tasty they do not need a dipping sauce. Serve warm as an appetiser.






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  • 2 medium eggplants (aubergines)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 40 g (1½ oz) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 40 g (1½ oz) breadcrumbs, plus extra to crumb
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • grapeseed, peanut or sunflower oil, for frying

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time: overnight

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). 

Place the eggplants on a roasting tray, prick a couple of times with a fork, then roast for about 45 minutes, until the eggplants feel tender when prodded. Set aside to cool slightly and when cool enough to handle, make a slit from the stem to the base. Scoop out the flesh and transfer to a fine-meshed sieve. Push the eggplant pulp with the back of a spoon to drain as much liquid as possible from the cooked flesh. Place the sieve over a bowl and set aside to drain overnight in the fridge. 

The next day, squeeze the flesh to release any remaining liquid (you should have about 250 g/9 oz drained eggplant), then chop finely. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg, parmesan, breadcrumbs, mint leaves and salt. Mix well with a spoon to combine. 

Wet your hands and make golf ball-sized polpettine with the mixture before rolling them gently in the extra breadcrumbs. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add a few more breadcrumbs and re-roll them. 

Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a small saucepan or deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a cube of bread. If it starts to turn golden in 5 seconds, the oil is ready. Carefully place a few polpettine in the oil without overcrowding the pan and cook, turning regularly, for 4 minutes. Drain on kitchen towel and set aside while you cook the remaining polpettine. (You can also make them ahead of time and gently reheat in a microwave before serving.) 

Serve warm.


This recipe is from Italian Street Food. (Smith Street Books). Photography by Paola Bacchia.