Polpette di melanzane – aubergine fritters

  • Antipasto
  • 6
  • 60 minutes

This Calabrian polpette (meatball) recipe doesn't actually contain any meat, containing a simple mix of aubergines, bread and pecorino cheese instead. One of the many examples of simple Calabrian home cooking, they are addictively delicious, simple to make and grace the vast majority of the region's dinner tables every Sunday. Make sure the cheese you're using is made with vegetable rennet to make this dish vegetarian.

First published in 2019

A summery snack that is never absent on the Calabrian Sunday lunch table, polpette di melenzane are a hymn to resourcefulness, and to a waste-not-want-not philosophy that sees delicious, moreish food being whipped up out of everyday (or leftover) ingredients. The version below is the simplest and most classic. It calls for aubergines mixed with day-old bread and with a hefty dose of pecorino and garlic for piquancy and flavour. Some recipes, including this one, use parsley, while others use fresh basil. Feel free to stir basil into the mix if you like, as well as a bit of ground pork or beef for substance.




Polpette di melenzane

  • 250g of stale bread, white
  • 500g of large aubergines, halved
  • 100g of pecorino, grated (or use a similar cheese using vegetarian rennet, if preferred)
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (a small bunch will do)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • fine sea salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • extra virgin olive oil, for deep-frying


To begin, soak the bread in some water and set aside for 10 minutes, until softened. Drain the bread, squeezing out any excess liquid, and crumble into a large bowl. Set aside
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the aubergines and blanch for 10–15 minutes, until tender all the way through. Drain and leave to cool on a plate. Squeeze out any excess liquid (this is crucial, you want them just barely wet at the end of the squeezing process), then mince very finely with a sharp knife
Place the minced aubergines in the bowl with the bread. Add the grated pecorino, parsley, grated garlic, eggs, salt and pepper and mix until evenly combined. Shape the meatballs using your hands, giving them a sort of oblong, oval shape
Finally, fill a frying pan three-quarters full with olive or sunflower oil, and set over a medium heat. When the oil is hot (170–180°C), add the meatballs. Fry in batches until dark-brown and cooked through, for about 4 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper
Allow to cool slightly, then eat while still hot

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