Sorry. I couldn’t get around the title. When my kids came home from school yesterday, and asked their customary question what’s for dinner, and I answered polpettine, they looked at each other wide-eyed, and almost simultaneously and smirkingly asked if we were having Emperor Palpatine for dinner. And thus began a long string of corny, nay ridiculous jokes that ended with more than one groan from the maternal kitchen gallery.
Where were we? Oh, right. Polpettine, as in, tiny meatballs. I saw Mario Batalli make these on Food Network about 8 or so years ago. They’ve been my go-to recipe for meatballs ever since. I prefer them small — a giant single meatball sitting atop a pile of pasta and sauce has never been very appealing to me. They are also the perfect recipe to double (or triple) and make large quantities at once — I mean, once your hands are dirtied up with raw beef and pork, you might as well sit there a while and do the work for more than one dinner. I make them up, lay them out on a lined baking sheet, and stick them in the freezer. Once frozen solid, I transfer them to ziplock bags, ready to dispense as many as I need to make a quick(ish) dinner.
These are classic Italian meatballs — I typically use a combination of beef & pork, but have used veal as well when I’ve had it. Very simply seasoned — primarily garlic — and tossed in a homemade marinara (my favorite recipe is below). Historically served atop a pile of pasta, these days I’m opting for strings of spaghetti squash (for obvious reasons) and am surprisingly enjoying the change.
So try them, and see if they don’t find a place in your dinner rotation (with or without a side of jokes about the ruler of the Galactic Empire).
Recipe: Polpettine (tiny meatballs)
: inspired by this recipe from Mario Batali
makes about 60 1 1/2″ meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef (grassfed if possible)
- 1 pound ground pork or veal
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thin
- 1/2 cup blanched almond flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan (optional)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 quarts marinara sauce (recipe below)
- In a large bowl, combine beef, pork (or veal), eggs, garlic, flour, parmesan, and salt & pepper. Using your hands, mix quickly and thoroughly to combine and distribute seasoning.
- Roll into balls 1″ – 1 1/2″ in diameter, according to preference. (At this point, meatballs can be place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and frozen for future use. Transfer to a freezer zip bag once frozen. When ready to use, thaw completely before proceeding with recipe.)
- In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil or rendered pork fat over medium heat until shimmering. Add meatballs in a single layer. Cook without disturbing for about 3 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Gently turn meatballs, continuing to cook, until brown on all sides.
- Pour marinara sauce over meatballs, and allow to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Recipe: Marinara Sauce
: makes 2 quarts sauce
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 (28-oz) cans diced or crushed tomatoes
- dried bay leaf
- sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- In a large saute pan or dutch oven set over medium heat, saute onions, celery, and carrot until soft — about 5-8 minutes (do not brown). Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add tomatoes and bay leaf to pan, and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer gently for 45 minutes (don’t rush this!).
- Using a hand-held stick blender, puree the sauce in the pot. Alternatively transfer to a blender or food processor and puree.
- Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.
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