Buon Giorno. Oggi facciamo polpettini in salsa di pommodoro. Un piatto classico, apprezzato da tutte le età. In other words, good morning. Today we are going to make meatballs in tomato sugo. This Italian classic is a favourite with young and old.
My lovely Sydney-based Italian friend, Tina, has fond memories of making meatballs with her beloved mother, Cristina, and her Zia (Aunt) Antonietta, who were born in the Campania region of Italy. Tina says 'Only that a waistline and diet wasn't an issue, we would fry meatballs in loads of oil. The fillings were eggs, breadcrumbs, loads of garlic (but of course!) parsley, salt and Parmesan. They would smell so divine and taste just as good. We'd eat them as they came out of the pan. They were just as delicious cold, in sandwiches.
When mum became unwell and while she could still eat, Zia Antoinetta, made miniature turkey meatballs. They were the size of a large olive. Bite sized. I made a few more batches since she first introduced me to them, but haven't made them since. The sugo (sauce) ones were made but not as often. We cooked with other pieces of meat in the sauce, such as involtini, bits of pork sausage, and mostly pork belly rashers (ah, the early days of no cholesterol counting). I have a recipe to try for baked turkey meatballs... one day... it's on the list... a long list.
We also made chicken meatballs that were tiny in size, smaller than a cool mint. They would take hours to make. Sometimes up to three or four family members would help, depending on volumes needed. We would them cook them in the lightest chicken broth. A gorgeous starter, before the lasagna, and of course, after the antipasto.'
Such special memories, Tina. Grazie bella for sharing with me and my readers of Good Things.
And now to my recipe for Polpettine in salsa di pomodoro. It's quick, simple, fresh, delicious... and low in fat (as the meatballs are baked and there is no oil used in the making of the sauce). The addition of rice crumbs to the meatballs also means this dish is gluten free (served with gluten free pasta, of course). Don't overcook the sauce... keep it fresh. It's lip-smackingly good!
MEATBALLS IN TOMATO SUGO
500g pork and veal mince
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 French eschalot, finely chopped1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon wild mushroom and black garlic salt*
1/2 cup rice crumbs (or fresh bread crumbs if preferred)
olive oil (to spray or brush on)
400g Pasta of your choice and freshly shaved Parmesan, to serve
For the sauce:
2 x 400g cans diced/crushed tomatoes plus 1-2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
(or use 10-12 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced)
a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste
As soon as you have walked in the door, preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Then, take off your coat and step back into the kitchen. Combine the mince with the chopped garlic, eschalot, parsley, wild mushroom and black garlic salt (or sea salt and pepper) and rice crumbs. Mix well with clean hands and roll into small meatballs or polpettine, the size of a walnut. Place onto a lined baking sheet or tray. Brush or spray lightly with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, until the meatballs are just cooked.
To make the sauce, combine the tomatoes, basil and pepper, and simmer for a 3-4 minutes. Add the meatballs and heat through. Serve on cooked pasta with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.
*A delicious salt fusion, available from Marco Marinelli, The Mushroom Man, at Adelaide Central Market. To give your meatballs an extra 'kick', add some finely chopped lemon zest, chopped chillies, or some Lucknow fennel seeds, which sit beautifully with minced pork.
The process in pictures...
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Tell me, do you enjoy a meal of meatballs? Does your Mamma, Nonna or Zia make them? Please, share your recipe with us.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.