Making polpettine with Mamma is a fond, early memory, completely unrelated to sardines. The most essential of dishes, and perhaps the most satisfying for those with a flair for meat. When Dimity and Francesca came to visit me in Ithaca, we regressed to our childhood kitchen table, recreating a staple my Mamma favored on easy-cooking nights. These keep well frozen too!
Polpettine (Italian Meatballs)
- Yield: 25 meatballs; or 5-6 servings 1x
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/3 cup minced basil, cilantro or parsley
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
How to make bread crumbs:
- The first step is to hold onto any spare bread you have. Keep it in a paper bag on the kitchen counter and just let it harden and sit there. This applies to most breads, but moister breads seem to turn moldy. Harder breads like sourdough, country white, or french baguette will harden when they go stale. When you’re ready, break up the bread with your hands or the palm of your hand against the counter (or a bottle if it’s really hard!) and grind in a blender. Store in a container in the fridge for when you’re ready to use them.
- If you don’t have stale bread or a blender, you can call your local bakery and see if they sell breadcrumbs. LikeMetropolitan Bakery or Ithaca Bakery. They’ll be much tastier and healthier than what you find at the grocery store, which often has mysterious flavorings and preservatives.
- If you’re beef is frozen, allow to defrost in the refrigerator while you’re at work, or in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 1 hour. Some microwaves have a defrost button, but alas, we don’t have one and it always tends to cook the outside anyway!
- With a knife, or if you’re so lucky to have been gifted a food processor, prepare the garlic and onions. The key is to mince and dice finely.
- In a large bowl, mix the garlic, onions, beef, sea salt, pepper, and Parmesan. I like to mix with my hands, and mix well but don’t over mush the beef! (This is where you add your hot sauce and herbs too.)
- Add the egg yolk and mix again. This acts as a binding agent.
- On a plate, spread the bread crumbs. Make small balls with your hands, using about 2 tablespoons of the beef. Roll in the breadcrumbs and set aside on another plate. Repeat until you’ve used up all the beef!
- In a cast iron skillet or large frying pan, add the oil until it is about 1/8 in. deep. We are not deep frying here folks!
- Test the oil to see if it’s hot by added a drop of beef to see if it sizzles, or a drop of water, but stand back! It will pop and splatter. Danger.
- Add the polpettine in batches until they are crisp and browned. You can cut one open to check the inside for doneness – which is how you like it prepared (medium rare, medium, well, etc.). I prefer these well done. They are small enough that they stay juicy!
- And voila! Set aside on paper towel to soak any oil, or just eat straight! Serve over spaghetti with tomato sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan. You can make your own sauce, or find a respectable, scrumptious brand from your local coop, supermarket, or farmers market (look for ingredients you can read, a local production facility, and some mention of the farming practices, such as organic or sustainable!).
Allergens: dairy, eggs