When I was growing up I loved Italian meatballs. In our house polpette were just fried and eaten without any sauce or topping. Today I decided to treat my children to polpette for dinner. To make them just a little more special I inserted a small cube of fontina cheese into the middle of each meatball before flouring and frying.
What to serve with my polpette? Tonight it’s Caponata. A gorgeously luscious and chunky Sicilian eggplant, capsicum and tomato relish. Wonderfully sweet and sour it complements my polpette beautifully.
Italian Meatballs. Polpette Di Carne.
Makes 12 – 15 medium sized polpette.
500 g not-too-lean minced veal, beef or pork
3/4 cup day-old Italian bread, crust removed,
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
1 large egg
1 small brown onion, finely chopped and fried until soft and translucent
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 red chilli, deseeded and minced
a small bunch of parsley, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
75 g Fontina cheese, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil for frying
1/2 cup plain flour for dusting
Prepare the Polpette
SOAK the bread in enough milk so it is thoroughly wet through, 3-5 minutes. Drain it well, squeezing it gently to remove most of the milk — you want the crumbs moist but not dripping.
IN A LARGE bowl, combine mince with soaked bread, fried onion, garlic, chilli, parsley, egg, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon or with one hand for faster and better results.
USING wet hands roll heaped tablespoons of the mince mixture into balls. Use your thumb to make a large indent in each ball and push in a cube of fontina cheese. Mould the meat around the cheese to enclose. Place polpette in the refrigerator to firm a little for 30 minutes or so.
When ready to fry
HEAT oil in a large heavy based frypan.
DUST each polpette in flour, shaking off any excess.
WHEN oil is hot add polpette in batches being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on medium heat, turning often, until they are browned on all sides and golden.
DRAIN on a paper towel and serve warm with a grating of parmesan cheese with your choice of sauce on the side.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 anchovy fillets
2 large eggplants, chopped into chunks
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 red capsicums, roasted, deseeded, peeled and chopped into chunks.
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, reserve a handful of picked leaves for presentation
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked and drained
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 – 2 teaspoons brown sugar, to balance the acidity
1 can peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
POUR olive oil into a large heavy based pan. When the oil is hot melt the anchovy fillets for a few minutes until they disappear into the oil.
ADD the eggplant and oregano. Fry for about fifteen minutes until soft and golden, stirring often to avoid burning.
ADD onions and garlic and cook for a further ten minutes. Add a little chicken or vegetable stock to the pan if the mixture is getting a little dry.
ADD parsley and roasted capsicum. Stir well to combine.
MIX together the sugar, de-salted capers and vinegar. Pour over the vegetables and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes.
WHEN all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.
TASTE before serving and season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the reserved, picked parsley leaves.