Aubergine balls

Aubergine balls

Polpette di melanzane

Helen Cathcart

At Al Mercà, a popular tiny bacaro near the Rialto, you can see pyramids of breadcrumbed patties made from beef, aubergine or tuna; one for every taste and usually taken with a Spritz. These are great on their own as cicchetti or with tomato sauce for a more substantial meal and as an alternative to meatballs. Not so Venetian, but if you want to serve them with a dip, Greek yoghurt mixed with chopped cucumber would be ideal.

For the polpette


Quantity Ingredient
2 aubergines, cut into 1 cm-thick round slices
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
150g potatoes, cooked and peeled
3 tablespoons mint leaves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
30g parmesan or grana padano, finely grated
freshly ground black pepper

To coat the polpette

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons ‘00’ or plain flour
1 large egg, beaten
60g dry breadcrumbs
sunflower oil, for deep-frying


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the aubergine slices on an oven rack over a baking tray. Brush the slices lightly with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and bake for 20–25 minutes or until they look dry and slightly browned. Set aside to cool. Blend the aubergine with the potato and mint in a food processor to a coarse paste or chop finely together by hand then transfer to a large bowl. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the onions for 5–7 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli (according to taste) for the last couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the cheese.
  2. Combine the cooled onion and cheese mixture with the aubergine mixture and season to taste. Make one ball to test the flavour. Take a piece of the mixture and roll it into a walnut-size ball; this is easier if you wet your fingers with cold water first.
  3. Prepare the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dip each ball first into the flour and tap off the excess, then into the egg and finally the bread-crumbs gently pressing them in. If you run out of egg, add a dash of milk to the bowl. Heat the sunflower oil in a deep-fat fryer or a high-sided frying pan until it is around 175°C or hot enough to make a piece of bread sizzle as soon as it enters the fat.
  4. Gently put the ball into the hot oil, and fry for 4–5 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper, cut open to check it is cooked to the middle and eat as soon as it is cool enough to touch. If necessary adjust the seasoning and mint in the aubergine mixture and cook another test ball until you are happy with the flavour, then make and fry the rest of the balls.
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