Eggplant meatballs (polpette di melanzane) are a quick and simple change from your traditional meatball recipe.  They’re the perfect meatless option and thanks to the delicious and hearty texture of the meaty eggplant, you won’t miss the “meat” at all.  

Eggplant meatballs in pan on blue background.

The eggplant meatballs don’t need a long cooking time like a traditional meatball and can simply be warmed up in tomato sauce.

For a real quick marinara, use the one from our 15-minute weekday marinara

That sauce takes only 15-20 minutes and can be whipped up while the eggplant meatballs are baking.

If you are looking for other meatless “meatball” options, check out our polpette di pane and our mushroom meatballs.

Ingredients shown: garlic, 2 eggplants, Pecorino Romano, 2 eggs, bunch of basil and breadcrumbs.

Simple ingredients in this one.  Basically, the same you would find in our classic Italian meatballs.   

The only difference (besides the eggplant) is the use of basil instead of parsley – basil just goes better with eggplant, in our opinion. 

The second change is using Pecorino Romano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese.

Pecorino is a saltier cheese with a more powerful flavor than parmesan.  It’s the cheese traditionally used for cacio e pepe, spaghetti carbonara, and spaghetti amatriciana .  Love it in those and think it makes these eggplant meatballs shine!

But, use what you like.  Any good-quality Italian cheese will work great here!

 

How to make eggplant meatballs (polpette di melanzane)

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350f and setting the rack to the middle level.  Cube 2 medium eggplants as shown (approximately 4-6 cups of chopped eggplant).
  2. Finely chop and make a paste out of 3 garlic cloves using the back of the knife.

Eggplant meatballs recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. In a pan large enough to accommodate the eggplant, saute the garlic on medium-low for 2 minutes in a 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  2. Add the eggplant to the pan and mix the eggplant into the oil and garlic.
  3. Add 3 ounces of water to the pan and cover.  Let the eggplant cook for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes the eggplant will be soft.

Polpette di melanzane recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Beat 2 eggs.
  2. Place all the eggplant into a large mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. To the bowl, add a 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil leaves, 3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs, 1 tsp black pepper, and the beaten eggs.
  4. The mixture should be soft and sticky enough to roll the eggplant into approximately 2″ diameter balls.  If the mixture is too dry, use another egg.  If the mixture is too wet, slowly add a little bit more of the breadcrumbs.  Tip – To effectively roll them, keep a bowl of water on the counter and wet your hands before rolling each ball.  Alternatively, oiling your hands with olive oil will work as well to prevent the eggplant mixture from sticking to your hands.

Recipe collage group number three.

  1. Place the eggplant balls on an oiled wire rack or a parchment paper lined sheet pan.  Bake the balls for 25-30 minutes.
  2. They will be nice and brown and can be simply placed in a pot of hot sauce and served within 5 minutes.

Serve the baked eggplant meatballs in your tomato sauce of choice or make a quick marinara.  Entirely up to you!  Don’t forget to serve them with more grated cheese and a nice loaf of Italian bread.

Eggplant meatballs in oval pan with sprinkled basil leaves and bowl of Pecorino Romano cheese.

What to serve with eggplant meatballs

Top tips

  • Unseasoned breadcrumbs are recommended to let just the basil and cheese shine through.
  • Use any type of firm, fresh eggplant.
  • Make sure the eggplant isn’t too hot before adding the egg, cheese, and remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl.
  • Roll the eggplant meatballs with wet or oiled hands to avoid sticking.
  • No extra salt was added due to the inherent saltiness of Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • The eggplant balls only need about 5 minutes of cooking in the sauce of your choice.

Side angle view of eggplant meatballs in pan with grated Pecorino Romano in background.

More great Italian eggplant recipes

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe for eggplant meatballs or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

Watch the video below where Jim will show you how to make this recipe with easy-to-follow instructions. 

Some people learn by watching.  If you’re that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Eggplant Meatballs (Polpette di Melanzane)

5 from 25 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
Eggplant meatball recipe with basil, Pecorino Romano cheese and garlic.

Ingredients 

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 ounces water

Instructions 

  • Begin by preheating oven to 350f and setting rack to middle level. Cube eggplant into approximately 1" pieces.
  • Crush and make a paste of 3 garlic cloves. Rough chop a 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves.
  • In a large pan on medium-low heat, saute garlic in a 1/4 cup of olive oil. After 2 minutes add the eggplant into the pan and mix thoroughly. Add 3 ounces of water to the pan, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and move softened eggplant to a large mixing bowl. Let the eggplant cool for a few minutes, then add the 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 cup chopped basil and 2 beaten eggs. Mix well to incorporate the ingredients.
  • With wet hands form eggplant meatballs and place on an oiled wire rack or a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bake the eggplant meatballs for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Place the eggplant meatballs in your sauce of choice and serve hot. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Unseasoned breadcrumbs are recommended to let just the basil and cheese shine through.
  • Use any type of firm, fresh eggplant.
  • Make sure the eggplant isn't too hot before adding the egg, cheese and remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl.
  • Roll the eggplant meatballs with wet or oiled hands to avoid sticking.
  • No extra salt was added due to the inherent saltiness of Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • The eggplant meatballs only need about 5 minutes of cooking in the sauce of your choice.

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcal | Carbohydrates: 37.6g | Protein: 12.6g | Fat: 21.7g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 600mg | Potassium: 406mg | Fiber: 6.4g | Sugar: 6.4g | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!Check us out on Instagram at @sipandfeast or tag #sipandfeast!
5 from 25 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

84 Comments

  1. Betsy says:

    I have loved all of your recipes.
    I cannot wait to try this one.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Tara says:

      We hope you love it, Betsy!