I received a cookbook as a birthday present from some work colleagues back in 1992. It’s by Jo Bettoja and is all about southern Italian cooking. In 1992, most southern Italian cooking was a quite a mystery in America. Even for immigrants from Italy, the focus was on the food of Naples and “red sauce” classics. This cookbook was one of the first deep explorations of southern Italy’s other cuisines, including food from Campania and Sicilia. Today, happily, there are entire restaurants focused on these “other” cuisines of southern Italy.
I love this recipe because it’s perfect for a light lunch with a salad. Nothing is more Sicilian than pine nuts and raisins. The light taste of veal really allows the creamy texture of the fried-then-baked eggplant to shine.Print
- 1 or 2 small, narrow Italian eggplant
- Flour for dredging
- Grape seed oil (see below for amount)
- 1 lb. good-quality ground veal
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish topping
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup golden raisins, plumped in warm water
- 2 cups pureed tomato sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Trim the eggplant ends and edges away so you have a block about three inches wide.
- Using a mandolin slicer, slice the eggplant into thin slices, approximately 1/4-inch thick. You will need one slice per meatball.
- Season the dredging flour with salt and pepper, enough to coat all the eggplant slices.
- In a medium skillet, heat grape seed oil about a ½-inch deep to just below the smoking point.
- Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour and briefly fry them in the oil until light golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Avoid frying to crispy brown because you won’t be able to roll them around the meatballs.
- In a large bowl, moisten the breadcrumbs with the milk. Add the veal, chopped parsley, eggs, butter, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and plumped raisins. Season with ample salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients gently with your hands to combine. Don’t over-mix.
- Roll the veal mixture into meatballs about the size of a golf ball. Wrap each meatball in a piece of fried eggplant and place in a backing dish with the eggplant seam down.
- Heat the oven to 350°.
- Pour enough of the tomato sauce over the meatballs to just cover them.
- Bake uncovered for about 50 minutes. Serve garnished with additional Parmesan cheese.
• Mandolin slicer
• Wide, shallow baking dish