Recipe: Lidia Bastianich’s Meatballs with Eggplant (Polpette con Melanzane)

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Lidia Bastianich Meat Balls by Diana DeLucia
Lidia Bastianich’s Meatballs with Eggplant (Photo by Diana DeLucia) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Famed celebrity chef, restauranteur, food entrepreneur Lidia Bastianich has released a new book co-authored with her daughter, Tania Bastianich Manuali. Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine is a tome, a reference work, a new bible filled with traditional classics.

I asked her to tell me about her recipe for Meatballs with Eggplant. Here is an edited version of our conversation:

It’s interesting now to watch this new sort of new restaurant world unfold with these amazing young chefs who are bringing their own stories and combining local ingredients, and yet still you see meatballs on the plate.

Well, you know, meatballs are comfort food. In Abruzzi they make smaller meatballs, and they put them in the lasagnas, in the sauce. We up north have the polpette—they were smaller, and they were kind of flat and pan-fried and not necessarily in the sauce.

I understand that you combine your meatballs with eggplant. Why?

Yes, I love working with vegetables, and I think part of the greatness, shall I say, of Italian cuisine is this intense use of vegetables, whether you’re making the sauce or making the meat. Legumes and vegetables were always used, and used in abundance.

Once the immigrants came to America, one of the things they did find was the abundance of meat, hence the bigger meatball and so on. But I do include vegetables wherever I can. So I put eggplant in the meatballs themselves, and it makes a delicious meatball and sauce.