Baked Gnocchi & Calabrese Fried Eggplant

Baked Gnocchi
Calabrese Fried Eggplant

Non si vive di solo pane. – Italian proverb.
Translation: One does not live by bread alone.

Two favorite dishes this week and both relatively easy to put together.  Nope I didn’t make the gnocchi, but purchased a 1 pound package,  the sauce I had already made and just needed to toss in the mozzarella.  Just a little issue with the fresh mozzarella, it didn’t melt like I thought it would and got pretty gloppy as I stirred it in, so I used the a dryer pre-packaged version and it melted in just fine.  The particular container of sauce that I chose was one that I had tossed a Parmigiano cheese rind into so I already had a great boost of cheese flavor to start with.

Unbaked Gnocchi

You can easily use a jarred sauce or your favorite homemade sauce and the gnocchi takes 2 minutes to pre-cook before tossing with the sauce and topping with additional cheeses of choice. Parmigiano, Romano, and Montasio are the cheeses that I used in the recipe, additional mozzarella topped off the gnocchi before placing under a broiler for 4-5 minutes.

The second recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis Calabrese Fried Eggplant needed additional bread crumbs and s bit more parsley and basil, about 3/4 of a cup crumbs, before the mixture would hold a meatball shape.  I made them ahead of time, refrigerated and brought to room temperature before frying.  I love this fried eggplant recipe and perfect for a meatless Monday dinner.  Don’t be looking for a “meatball” made from meat texture, this one is soft and moist, perfect served with homemade sauce, additional sprinkle of cheese and a good loaf of bread to sop up all the sauce…

Calabrese Fried Eggplant

Vegetable oil cooking spray
One 1-pound eggplant, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Eggplant Filling:

  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs, plus extra, as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  • 2 cups jarred marinara or tomato-basil sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese


For the eggplant: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet or a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Place the eggplant, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Make 1/2-inch-deep slits over the surface of the eggplant halves using a paring knife. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake until golden and tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

Roasted Eggplant

For the filling: Scoop out 1 cup of flesh from the eggplant, using a spoon, and place in a food processor. Blend until the eggplant is smooth. Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, basil, egg, garlic and parsley. Pulse until the mixture is thick enough to form into balls, adding extra breadcrumbs as needed. Scoop 25 balls of the mixture, each about 2 tablespoons, onto a baking sheet using a small cookie scoop.

Calabrese Fried Eggplant Ready to Fry

For the sauce: Bring the marinara and red pepper flakes to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

For assembly: Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted into the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 4 minutes.) In batches, fry the eggplant balls until golden, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the fried eggplant warm or cold with marinara sauce and the grated pecorino cheese.