I’ve made these for a long time. These Italian eggplant balls are a great substitute for meatballs. Use them just like meatballs, in sauces, in recipes, as a side dish, etc. Eggplant balls can be a vegetarian substitution for many dishes. I like these best fried because I like them crispy. You could bake them instead. They go great “parmesan style” too, in a casserole dish, topped with sauce, parmesan & mozzarella cheese then baked… These “meatballs” are flavorful and a great addition to a plate of pasta. I also wouldn’t be opposed to using them in meatball sub as well. Or just eating them by themselves on a toothpick. Anything meatball-appropriate will work just fine. I’m pretty sure you will like these eggplant balls quite a lot!
INGREDIENTS 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) eggplant (aubergine), cut into 3–4 cm (1¼–1½ in) cubes 100 g (3½ oz) moist breadcrumbs from day-old bread ½ cup (80 g/2¾ oz) pine nuts 30 g (1 oz) Grana Padano, grated 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 small red chillies, minced 2 eggs, whisked 3 tbsp finely chopped parsley extra virgin olive oil ⅔ cup (80 g/2¾ oz) fine dry breadcrumbs
Bring 2 litres (70 fl oz) water and 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the eggplant and boil for about 10 minutes, uncovered, until soft, pushing it under the water repeatedly with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Drain, cool and press with a spoon to remove any excess liquid. Chop and put in a bowl with the moist breadcrumbs, pine nuts, Grana Padano, garlic, chillies, eggs and parsley. Blend gently using a fork. Season.
Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan until hot and fry a tablespoon of the mixture to check for seasoning. Roll the mixture into 2.5 cm (1 in) balls and put on a tray. If the mixture is too wet to roll easily, add more fresh breadcrumbs. Roll each ball in the dry breadcrumbs to coat evenly.
Pour oil into a wide frying pan to a depth of 1 cm (½ in). Turn the heat to medium and when the oil begins to shimmer put a ball in. If it begins to sizzle immediately, the oil is ready. Fry the balls until browned all over. Drain on paper towels. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve eggplant balls with tomato passata.
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