("Polpette" - "Purpetti")
Meatballs are made all over the world with no precise recipes, everyone has their own way to prepare, cook and
serve them. The meat balls were born to make edible and to utilize tough meat from adult and working animals before
agriculture was motorized.
Perhaps meat balls are the only dish where the main ingredient, the meat is important only in name and in fact the
condiments blended with the chopped meat produce a tasty morsel with such a blend of taste that it is hard to
In Southern Italy, including Sicily the meat balls were made to make the most of the hard leftover bread and the
chopped meat was used being the most inexpensive meat. The proportion between chopped meat and the amount of bread
used in making the meat balls was related to the financial position and the wealth of the
Stale bread is moistened with milk or water and to cover-up its taste, garlic, onions, other vegetables, nuts,
fruits, spices and eggs are used and blended into the mixture.
As a child, I loved the meatballs that my mother made, as an adult, I could appreciate better the blend of flavors,
highlighted by the occasional raisins or pine nuts, the crunchiness on the outside, the velvet softness on the
inside and the faint taste of garlic, the sweetness of the onions, the sharp savor of the cheese and the slightly
peppery flavor of the parsley.
La signora Danila, my mother-in-law, made fried meatballs using leftover boiled meat. She used 2 cups of fresh
bread crumbs, coarsely diced, soaked in 1 cup of milk for every 2 lb. of meat with the addition of eggs, cheese,
little garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
In some parts of Italy the meat is a mixture of pork and beef, in Sicily beef is normally used.
Spaghetti and meatballs is an American tradition, in my home we served fried meatballs as a supplement to a meager
main course, or when on Sunday, we prepared the ragu’, the tomato sauce was enriched with polpette,
sausages, pittinicchi, boned
pork spareribs,cotenna, pork
skin, a boneless loin roast stuffed with garlic.
The ragu’ was a complete meal because the sauce was used as a condiment for the pasta and the meats were used as
Small meat balls can be served with a dipping sauce as an appetizer.
MAKES 24 TO 30 MEATBALLS
lb of chopped meat
eggs lightly beaten
cup of your preferred grated cheese
cup of milk
small onion, minced
clove minced garlic
cup tomato sauce (optional)
cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
½ cup of canola or corn oil for frying
Oil to wet your
The Meat Balls
In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs and milk and let it soak for a few minutes; add the ground beef with all
the ingredients except for the oils.
Mix it well, work and compact mixture with your hands into a mass. If it is too dry add some milk or if it results
too soft add some bread crumbs.
Coat a baking pan with a few drops of oil.
Wet your hands with oil and roll the mixture into balls the size of a walnut, about 1½ inch in diameter. Place
balls in the baking pan.
To make the meat balls uniform in size, use a 3 ounce ice cream scoop, shape the scooped mixture into a sphere and place in baking
Meat ball can be baked or fried.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, sprinkle ¼ of a cup of water in the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Place ½ cup of olive oil in a large skillet, over a medium heat; at about 350 degrees, or until it shimmers, fry
the meatballs in a few batches and cook on both sides. When golden-brown (not dark brown), with a slotted spoon
transfer to drain in a dish covered with paper towels.
Meat balls can be served hot, with salad or vegetables, or can be simmered for 15 minutes in tomato sauce, and
reheated before serving. The sauce enhanced by the taste of the meatballs is a delightful companion to spaghetti or
other types of pasta.
Serve small size meatballs as appetizer, withsalsa
a dipping sauce, on the side.
Salsa verde is made with the inside of bread moistened in vinegar, mixed with boiled eggs, anchovies, cappers,
olive oil, and lemon zest chopped together with an abundant quantity of fresh parsley and if needed salt and pepper