- 60 min
Veggie balls are a tasty second course dish from the rustic cucina povera tradition that are also great as a crowd-pleasing appetizer: crunchy golden morsels with a tasty and colorful seasonal vegetable filling held together by cheese, eggs, and breadcrumbs, like in the best tradition of our grandmothers, who sometimes even used them to stuff meatloaf. In fact, fried veggie balls have a long tradition in Italian home cooking: a way to bring a tasty dish to the table that can be made from just a few rustic ingredients; a mothers’ trick to get their children to eat vegetables... We all have memories related to this dish, one bite of which has the power to bring us back to our childhood. While less healthy and more expensive dishes were the trend for a while, we’re now going back to a cultural climate where there’s more awareness of the need to reduce food waste, rediscovering authentic dishes that make the most of what’s at hand. So, even though our recipe shows you a “basic” version of these veggie balls, with carrot, potato, and zucchini, we suggest going back to the recipe every once in a while and changing things up with whatever vegetables the garden (and fridge) can offer you, depending on the season. In the fall, for example, why not try making our mushroom balls? That’s how these balls come about, and there’s no better or more authentic way to make them and enjoy them.
To make the veggie balls, first put a pot filled with cold salted water on the stove and immerse the potatoes after having washed them carefully 1. Let them cook for 30-40 minutes, then peel them while they’re still warm and pass them through a potato ricer 2 into a large bowl 3.
Next, chop the onion 4, trim the carrots and cut them into ¼-inch dice 5. Then cut the zucchini into dice of the same size 6.
Crush the garlic using the blade of a knife 7 and chop the parsley finely 8. Place a large saucepan on the stove and then add some oil and the crushed garlic clove. Once the oil has been infused with the garlic flavor, add the chopped onion 9.
Leave it to cook for a couple of minutes, then add the carrot and, a minute later, the peas 10. Finally, add the zucchini 11 and salt and pepper 12 to taste.
Let it cook for around 10 minutes, making sure that the vegetables stay slightly crunchy 13. Stir well and leave to cool. Now take the bowl with the mashed potato and add the grated Parmigiano cheese 14 and egg, lightly beaten 15.
Season with salt 16, pepper, and nutmeg 17. Pour in the vegetables once they’ve cooled 18.
Finally, add the chopped parsley 19. Combine well with a spoon 20 to get a mixture with the right consistency to work with 21.
Moisten your hands and shape the veggie balls, using about 2 oz (50 g) of mixture for each one 22. Transfer the balls one by one to a tray lined with parchment paper 23. Once you’ve formed all the balls, move on to the breading. Beat the eggs in one bowl and pour the breadcrumbs into another. Now dip each veggie ball into the egg 24.
Once it’s well covered in egg, dredge in the breadcrumbs 25. Transfer the veggie balls to another tray as you finish breading them 26. Next, fry the veggie balls in plenty of peanut oil, pre-heated to 350°F (180°C), immersing them a few at a time 27.
When they’re nice and golden, drain the veggie balls 28 and transfer them to a tray lined with paper towel 29, then salt them to taste. Your veggie balls are ready – enjoy them piping hot 30!
These fried veggie balls should be eaten freshly cooked, although if you’ve used all fresh ingredients, you can freeze them before cooking and then fry them straight from the freezer, without defrosting them first.
A trick to get an even crispier, tastier coating lies in double breading: After breading the veggie balls by dipping them in the egg and then dredging in breadcrumbs, repeat these steps and dip and dredge again... It will take a few more minutes, but the result will be mouthwateringly good! If you’d like to go for a lighter version, you can bake the balls in a convection oven preheated to 390°F (200°C) for around 20 minutes, although bear in mind that they won’t turn out as crispy! If you prefer, you can swap the peas for the same amount of beans; there’s no need to parboil them first.