Italian Grilled Eggplant Cakes

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Italian Grilled Eggplant Cakes - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

Some beautiful foods just aren’t pretty to look at, and these eggplant cakes fall into that category. They taste wonderful and take on a beautiful brown color, but on the plate it looks like fried mud and grass clippings. In spite of their unassuming looks, we enjoyed these little tidbits from Marcella Hazan’s tome Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It has long been a favorite of mine and was my introduction to true Italian cooking.

If you are up to your knees in eggplant this summer, this is a great way to use a couple of them. Hazan’s recipe calls for roasting the eggplants in the oven, but I avoid turning on the oven in July and August unless there’s a really darn good reason, such as a Daring Baker’s challenge or a birthday cake to bake. These went onto a hot grill and I turned them every 10 minutes to make sure they cooked evenly.

Grilled Eggplant, whole

Getting the oil temperature just right for an operation like this can be a bit tricky. You want the cakes to fry, not soak. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the cakes will absorb oil and become greasy, definitely not tasty. Make sure the oil temperature is right about 350° F/175° C but not higher than 375° F/190° C. The temperature will drop slightly when you add the eggplant, but not enough to cause them to soak.

Hazan offers a recipe for a tomato sauce with onions to which you add the fried cakes while it’s cooking. We did our own variation on that by using pasta sauce with roasted garlic and an onion confit, piling both on top. It was a very tasty combination!

Italian Grilled Eggplant Cakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • 2 pounds (about 900 g) eggplant
  • 1/3 cup (17 g) unseasoned bread crumbs, lightly toasted
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper, fresh ground, to taste
  • canola oil, enough to come 1/2-inch up the sides of the frying pan
  • flour, spread on a small plate

  • pasta sauce
  • onion confit
  1. Preheat the grill or oven to 400° F/200° C.
  2. Wash the eggplants and do not trim. Keep them whole and intact. Rub the grill down with some canola oil and place the eggplants on the grill. Cook, turning every 10 minutes, until tender and a toothpick pierces the skin easily, about 40 minutes. (For the oven, place the eggplant directly on the rack and put a baking pan below to catch the drips.)
  3. Set the eggplant on a plate to cool. As soon as it is cool enough to handle, peel the skin away and discard. Cut the eggplant into several large pieces and place in a colander over a deep dish for about 15 minutes. Allow the juices to drain away, squeezing the pieces as necessary to encourage the eggplant to shed it's liquid.
  4. Chop the eggplant very fine and combine in the mixing bowl with the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, egg, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Mix it all together with your hands until it's uniform. Shape into little cakes about 2 inches (about 5 cm) across and 1/2-inch thick (about 1 cm). Lay the cakes on a large plate.
  5. Pour the canola oil into the frying pan until it comes about 1/2-inch (1 cm) up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat on high. When the oil is very hot (375° F/190° C), dip the cakes in flour on each side and gently slide into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pan, allow plenty of room between the cakes. When the crust gets nice and brown, flip them over. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove to a large plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle some more salt on top while still hot.
  6. Serve hot or warm with some pasta sauce and sauteed onions (onion confit) on the side.
More Information

grill (or oven)
large bowl
frying pan
instead read thermometer (for checking oil temperature)
2 large plates, line one with paper towels
1 small plate


Baked with mozzarella: Top each fried cake with a slice of fresh mozzarella and bake at 400° F/200° C until the cheese melts.

More Italian Favorites

Lasagna with Spinach and Basil Andrea's Recipes - Pasta Primavera

More Grilled Eggplant Recipes from Around the Food Blogs

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  1. says

    Fabulous! I’ve been collecting recipes, and I totally forgot about Marcella’s eggplant cakes! I love her cookbook too. I’m making these next week — thanks!

  2. says

    I know I have four medium eggplants begging to be used up at home, I just hope I have the remaining ingredients to make your fabulous eggplant cakes!

  3. victoria says

    I love grilling eggplant all year round. And I know what you mean about a great tasting recipe that isn’t photogenic. I’m not too worried about it – still tastes great!

    victorias last blog post..Miso Sake Eggplant

  4. says

    Kalyn, thanks! I like spicy flavors with eggplant and used to get aa spicy eggplant stir fry dish at a restaurant in DC that was quite memorable. Sadly the restaurant is closed. Now I have to figure out how to make it!
    Jennifer, Hazan’s book is wonderful, isn’t it? I’ve had my copy since 1995 and still love it.
    Pooh, thanks and I hope you like them.
    Victoria, it’s a good thing I shot that photo outside because indoors it would have looked so much worse. :-)
    Suzanne, I’ll be happy to share!

  5. says

    You know, so many foods are not photogenic … and we just have to ask why it is that we think food should look a certain way. To me, I’m glad to see something looking “rustic” because so often that means that it’s passed into some other realm, where the food doesn’t need to be photogenic in order to be plated.


    DaviMacks last blog post..Pumpkins, Tomatoes and Oranges. Oh, my.

  6. says

    To me it looks delicious and beautiful and just ready to eat!

    I love your GYO segment, It brings people closer to the earth and ultimately nature. Will try to participate next time. We have a big garden, pity it only lasts for 3 months!

  7. says

    Indosungod, I never thought of using them in a sandwich, but it sounds like a great idea!

    DaviMack, you are so right. Until I started photographing for this cooking blog, I never really thought about presentation; good flavor was enough for us. Still is!

    Nazarina, I hope you get a chance to join in! We’re celebrating the first anniversary of Grow Your Own!

  8. Chefmikey says

    I only put in 4 eggplant plants to my newly built garden and ended up with a real bumper crop of huge eggplants. I’ve been getting tired of the same old broiled, grilled or parmesan eggplant. This is a really great recipe! I’ve made it twice…once as written and once I added some spicey peppers. Both are a hit around here.


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