"Eggplant polpette make a great appetizer because they are bite-size and can be eaten with your fingers. They look exactly like meatballs, and when the budget is tight, Calabrian cooks will simmer them, without the breadcrumb coating, in tomato sauce and serve with pasta as a second course. In parts of Calabria, cooks tuck a cube of caciocavallo cheese inside each meatball." —Rosetta Costantino, cookbook author @rosettacostantino


Credit: Paola & Murray

Recipe Summary test

50 mins
1 hr 25 mins
Makes 32 meatballs

This recipe originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue. Get the magazine here


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a 4-quart pot, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tbsp. salt to a boil over high heat; add the eggplant. The cubes will float, so keep pushing them down into the water with a wooden spoon while they're cooking. Boil until the eggplant is soft and translucent around the edges, 10 to 14 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool for 30 minutes. Stir and press on the eggplant with a wooden spoon to remove excess water; the eggplant should be as dry as possible. Finely chop the eggplant.

  • Using a fork, gently combine the chopped eggplant, fresh breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley, and garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Thoroughly mix in the egg.

  • In a small skillet lightly coated with oil, fry a tablespoon of the mixture and taste for seasoning; season more, if needed.

  • Roll the eggplant mixture between your palms into 32 balls (about 1 inch each) and place on a baking sheet. If the mixture is too moist to roll easily, stir in some more fresh breadcrumbs. Pour the dried breadcrumbs into a small bowl. Roll each ball in the dried breadcrumbs until evenly coated, then place on a plate or baking sheet.

  • Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, put a test ball in the skillet; it should sizzle immediately. When the oil is ready, carefully add half the balls to the skillet. (They should fit in a single layer without crowding.)

  • Fry the balls, turning them gently with a slotted spoon, until deeply browned all over, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the balls to a paper towel–lined plate. Repeat with the remaining balls. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve.


Variation: Shape the balls but do not coat them with dried breadcrumbs. Fry them in oil as directed, then simmer, uncovered, in 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon meatball mixture over 1 lb. of cooked pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino.