These eggplant balls are perfect for finger food at your next summer party, or as an entrée for any summer meal. Eggplants are at their peak right now, being the sweetest and most delicious they can be during the year.
This is the simplified and lighter version of a recipe I had in Calabria, earlier this year. The ones I enjoyed in my Southern holiday were bigger – the food size is always bigger in Southern Italy – and had a heart of Caciocavallo cheese that melted in my mouth, burning my taste buds.
Eggplant is another incredible ingredient that demonstrates, once again, that Italian cuisine has always been welcoming ingredients and cultural influences all over the world.
Cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory, it reached the countries of the Mediterranean thanks to the Arabs. This is indicated by the numerous Arabic and North African names for it, along with the lack of the ancient Greek and Roman names.
While the cultivation of this solanaceous plant took root in Southern Mediterranean in the Middle Ages, it was only introduced in Central and Northern Italy after the unification of Italy in the second half of 19th century.
Pellegrino Artusi, the author of the first book of Italian cuisine of a unified Italy in 1891, The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, is the first to exalt this versatile vegetable.
“Forty years ago,” he writes in his recipe 399, “one hardly saw eggplant or fennel in the markets of Florence; they were considered to be vile because they were foods eaten by Jews. As in other matters of greater moment, here again the Jews show how they have always had a better nose than the Christians.”
- 2 medium globe eggplant (about 1 pound – 800 gr.) (peeled and cubed ½ inch thick)
- 2 medium eggs
- ½ + ¼ cups breadcrumbs (100 gr.)
- 1 cup grated Pecorino or Grana cheese (100 gr.)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh flat parsley, finely chopped
- marine salt and black pepper to season
- 1 + ½ cups sunflower oil (300 ml.)
- Boil the eggplant cubes in salted water from 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check with a fork when they are soft. Drain the cubes and set aside to cool.
- Squeeze all liquid from eggplant through the strainer and transfer the eggplant to a food processor. Add parsley, eggs, cheese, garlic, season with pepper, and pulse.
- Scrape down sides of bowl, and blend again until smooth. Test to check if salt is needed, if so, add it and pulse again.
- Grease your hands with oil, take a tablespoon of the mixture and form a ball using your hands.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat and fry the balls. You can also spread a bit of olive oil on parchment and bake them instead of frying.
- Move to a serving dish and serve.