The word ‘polpetta’ translates to meatball (and the diminutive polpettina is a tiny meatball). However, in Italian you can describe the word further by saying what the polpetta is made of. So, polpettine di melanzane means eggplant meatballs, which doesn’t really make sense as there is no meat in them! I have eaten eggplant polpette at a bacaro (bar) in Venice as well as from a street vendor in Sicily. The Sicilian version of eggplant polpettine had mint leaves, which I’ve included here. You will need to start this recipe a day ahead.
- 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 your eggplant polpettine warm as an appetiser. These are so moist and tasty they do not need a dipping sauce.
This recipe is part of Paola from Italy on my Mind’s brand new cookbook: Italian Street Food.