POLPETTE DI MELANZANE (EGGPLANT CROQUETTES)

These eggplant croquettes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They are great served as an appetizer with homemade aioli or marinara sauce. Turn an ordinary eggplant into these hard-to-resist delectable croquettes!

Eggplant croquettes (or "meatballs") are well known throughout the southern regions of Italy, but this wasn't a dish that my mom, nor my grandmothers made. The recipe I'm sharing today is an inspiration between my paternal grandmother, nonna Rosa, and another calabreseRosetta CostantinoA few years ago, she published a cookbook called, My Calabria, one of my favourite books written on calabrian cuisine. 

The ingredients and cooking method is true to the original version of the recipe, but there are two small changes that I have made:
  1. I cut the eggplant into smaller pieces, so it's easier to chop afterwards.
  2. I roll them into a larger oval shape rather than one inch balls (this is where the my inspiration from my grandmother comes in).
When I was a kid, we had dinner every Sunday at my grandparents' house. For me, that meant helping my grandmother prepare the food in the basement. My task was to always roll out oval-shaped meatballs (whether it was ground meat, potato or rice), and then fry them in olive oil, in her medium-sized cast iron pan. From time to time, I fry my meatballs the way my grandmother taught me, and I wanted to try this with eggplant. Rosetta's recipe for "Crispy Eggplant Meatballs" seemed like the perfect recipe. :-)

For this recipe, you will need one large eggplant or two smaller ones. Wash and pat dry. Cut the green stems off and slice into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices. Stack two or three slices on top of each other, and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips. Carefully rotate the pile and cut again into the same width, to get the cubes.



Continue cutting the rest of the eggplant slices into cubes. Place into a saucepan large enough to hold the eggplant and fill with water, almost to the top. The eggplant will float, but you don't need to worry about that at this point. Cover with a lid and bring to a rolling boiling. Remove lid and push the eggplant in the center down into the water, so it also gets cooked. Occasionally do this until all eggplant cubes look translucent. This will take about 10-15 minutes.  


The photo above looks a little fuzzy (I had taken it with my mini iPad under low lighting), but the eggplant should look similar to this. Strain in a colander and let it come to room temperature (about an hour). The skin has turned to a faded dark purple, and the beautiful, creamy white flesh has turned into a not-so-pretty "translucent beige". By boiling the eggplant, this helps remove the bitterness. Therefore, you don't need to salt it beforehand. 

After the eggplant has cooled, grab a handful and squeeze between your hands to remove as much water as you can, but don't completely dehydrate it. The first time I made this recipe, I had squeezed it between two plates and had removed too much of the moisture. The croquettes were very dry and they tasted more like bread rather eggplant. The eggplant should resemble the photo above - not too dry and not too wet, but some where in between. :-)

Next, flatten the eggplant onto a cutting board and finely chop into smaller pieces. Then chop it again perpendicularly. If you noticed the white stuff in the third photo above, it's because I initially added Italian grated cheese before chopping it (I was distracted by the kids - hehe). The cheese goes in after the eggplant has been finely chopped, but my little mishap didn't change the taste of the croquette. :-)

Transfer the cooked eggplant into a medium bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, which are fresh bread crumbs, grated Italian cheese, and minced parsley and garlic. Mix everything thoroughly together either with a fork or your hand, until everything is well blended. Don't be afraid of over mixing. It's more important to have everything well distributed. If the mixture feels wet, add a little more bread crumbs, and if it feels too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water or milk. I don't recommend adding another egg because it would make the mixture soggier than it should be. Next, grab a tablespoon of the mixture, roll into a ball, and then back and forth into an oval shape. The croquette should be roughly 1 1/2 to 2 inches (3-4 cm) long. Finally, roll it in breadcrumbs, coating all sides, and then set aside. 

This step is not necessary but I recommend doing it. After coating the croquette with breadcrumbs, I like to gently pat it between my hands, so that the breadcrumbs are more compact. I find that they are more secure when frying (they won't fall off as easily). This is something my mom used to do whenever she prepared chicken cutlets. Doing this, also gives the croquette a more uniform shape.

Pour enough olive oil into the frying pan to cover the bottom, about half an inch (1 cm) in height (you don't want to skimp on the oil). As the oil heats up, add one eggplant croquette. The moment it starts sizzling around the sides, add the rest of the croquettes. My grandmother never worried about crowding the pan. The croquettes will still brown. Now, if the oil looks a little low, add a bit more oil in the center and along the sides. You can use a different oil for frying, if you prefer.

When the croquettes are nicely browned, flip them over using a two forks, and continue frying the other side. When done, transfer to a dish lined with paper towel. These can be served as an appetizer with homemade aioli or marinara sauce. Now, if you're a garlic lover like me, then you would enjoy them with this fresh tomato garlic sauce recipe. Or you can serve them with a side salad for a light dinner.






Let me know what you think of this recipe by leaving a comment below. I hope you enjoy it like my family does.

Buon appetito!


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POLPETTE DI MELANZANE (EGGPLANT CROQUETTES)
(From the Kitchen of For the Love of Italian Cooking)

Ingredients:
  • 1 large eggplant, or two smaller ones (1 lb or 450-500 g)
  • 1 cup (80 g) fresh bread crumbs (I used whole wheat toast quickly blitzed in the blender)
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 egg (M or L)
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) dried bread crumbs (for coating croquette)
  • Extra virgin olive oil for frying
  • 1 cup aioli, marinara sauce, or fresh tomato garlic sauce
Instructions:
  1. Wash eggplant, cut stem off, and slice into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices. Stack 2 or 3 slices and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips. Rotate 90 degrees and cut perpendicularly into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes. Put the eggplant in a pot large enough to hold them, fill with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove lid and push eggplant down, so it also gets cooked. This should take 10-15 minutes. Drain and let it come to room temperature, about an hour.

  2. Squeeze out as much water as you can between your hands (but not all the moisture). Place in a medium-sized bowl, and add fresh bread crumbs, grated Italian cheese, parsley and garlic. Mix everything together either with a fork or your hand, until well blended. Scoop out one tablespoon of the mixture and roll into an oval shape between your hands. Roll into bread crumbs and gently pat between your hands. Set aside on a dish and continue rolling out the croquettes until the mixture is used up. 
  3. Heat up about 1/2 inch (1 cm) of olive oil in a large frying pan (preferably cast iron), over medium-high heat. Place one croquette in the oil and as soon as it starts sizzling, add the rest of the croquettes. Fry until brown (a few minutes), then turn over using two forks, and brown on the other side. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature with aioli or tomato sauce.
Serves 4-6 people.



Adapted from Rosetta Constantino's recipe for "Crispy Eggplant Meatballs"

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely want to try these. "Melanzane" in "polpette" form, sounds and looks delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Didi! Thanks for stopping by! My kids don't usually eat eggplant but they enjoy eating these. I hope you will like them too. :-)

    ReplyDelete

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Rosa G.
Hamburg, Germany
Hi! My name is Rosa and welcome to my blog! I'm a fun loving, most-of-the-time stressed mother of three small boys, and a former cubicle dweller turned pastry chef. I am an amateur blogger and food photographer and lover of good Italian food. My food is simple, fresh, and seasonal (with an occasional frozen pizza).