… it really felt like Spring today, although by the time you’re reading this it’ll no doubt be icy cold again in the UK but these few hours of sunshine really helped everything feel like the planet was waking up to a new year at last… the noisy but insanely cute lambs frolicking in the field opposite the cottage help quite a bit too and as The Viking and I sat on the bench in the garden that looks out over the perfect bucolic scene we both felt warmly serene for the first time this year…
… the nights are still achingly cold of course and once dinner time comes around it’s still big bowls of warming stews and soups that the body requires. I’ve been wanting to make these little Italian meatballs ever since I made them a month or two ago when I, along with a group of other lovely bloggers, spent the day with Florence Knight the head chef of trendy modern-Italian restaurant Polpetto… I remember how simple and fun they were to make and how surprised I was by the fact that she baked them rather than fried them… I don’t fully remember the recipe and I stupidly didn’t write it down but I feel that i’ve re-created them here quite faithfully with a few belleau kitchen changes of course…
polpette – small Italian meatballs
the popular dish that is Italian meatballs with tomato sauce is in fact not very Italian at all… it’s an American interpretation of polpette that has evolved from the traditional over the decades to become the wonderful dish we now all know and love… polpette is usually made from 2 types of meat, a ground beef and a ground veal and never served with tomato sauce but probably served as an appetiser or as a dish between starter and main course… i’ve combined the old and the new by creating a thick and rich tomato sauce and i’ve also used ground steak mince and sausage meat which were both part of the incredible package of meat and cheese sent to me by Farmison… the recipe may be slightly fiddly but I woke early this morning and had the whole dish prepped and made, with the house cleaned in between, in just over two hours… divine…
for the tomato sauce
this sauce needs a minimum of two hours, longer if possible
2 medium onions – finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
butter and olive oil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x tin’s worth of half white wine, half stock or water
rosemary, thyme and oregano
for the polpette – makes 35 small meatballs
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 clove of garlic – crushed
2 large, good quality sausages – any kind will do – roughly 250g
450g minced steak
half a loaf of basic white bread – crusts removed and roughly torn
a dash of milk
to start with we’re going to caramelise the onions for both the tomato sauce and the meatballs so use all three onions and all the cloves of garlic at the same time… add them to a large hot pan with olive oil and a little butter and gently saute them for about 20 mins on a medium heat, with a pinch or two of sugar and some chopped fresh herbs… keep your eye on them, they want a little golden colour but you don’t want them to stick…
once they’re done spoon out about a third and set aside, then add the tinned tomatoes, wine and stock to the remaining onions, turn the heat to it’s very lowest and let them plop away gently for at least an hour and a half if not longer.
place the bread in a large bowl add the milk and stir until it’s all absorbed… next add the rest of the ingredients and the onions and get your hands stuck in and bring at all together ensuring it’s well mixed
prepare a baking tray with foil, then pour some oil onto your hands and form little meatballs from the meat mixture, you want them the size of a large marble… lay them out evenly on the baking tray and then bake in the oven on 180C for 20 mins or until golden and gorgeous
add them to the sauce before serving either as they are or with some pasta or rice
eat and of course, enjoy!
they look even better than the real thing! All I remember is the bread & milk part…& I think some lemon zest in the sauce?
Rachel McGrath says
I'm bloody starved now!
Javelin Warrior says
I've never baked meatballs before – I've ever only cooked them in a pan on the cooktop or deep-fried in oil (for keftedes). I love the approach of baking and will have to try this. Love the use of sausage and I also soak my bread before mixing it in… This looks awesome, Dom…
From Beyond My Kitchen Window says
I always bake my meatballs. Maybe it is the Italian in me buy I'm s sucker for meatballs ans sauce.
little macaroon. says
LOVELY photograph that top one Dom, really lovely. I love wee meatballs too, especially because kids seem to adore them. I have become a convert to Nigella's turkey meatball recipe in Kitchen – they're a really good alternative to red meat, and not fried or baked, just dropped raw into the hot sauce. Yum.
John Gray says
That is a real airy arsed bloke lunch
John Gray says
Lol that. Should of read hairy
Karen S Booth says
I remember these Dom! Yours look just as nice as Florence's did on the day too! And, those are REALLY fabulous photos, very enticing! Bookmarked to make soon…..Karen
Oh they look lovely. I do adore meatballs.
Marmaduke Scarlet says
Absolutely gorgeous. BTW, Jez Felwick of The Bowler's Meatballs fame suggests you should always bake your meatballs. Personally I find it easier as they are less likely to fall apart on me!
Magnolia Verandah says
Polpette is one of my favs……..I make my sauce with red wine but I am sure white is equally good, and I do agree the longer you cook the sauce the richer it becomes. These freeze so well too for a night when you can't be bothered you can drag them out of the freezer and are still very good. Love em.
I keep trying to send you the warmer weather, but the darn cold weather hanging over you, keeps scaring it back my way 🙂
I adore polpette and I think it can be enjoyed when it's bitterly cold outside or when it's 115.. it's just THAT good!!
Anneli (Delicieux_fr) says
I love meatballs and these sound wonderful. I am sure that the sausage meat adds something special to the flavour. This is a dish I crave on a cold day – oh yes, just like today!
Becs @ Lay the table says
Dom this sounds amazing – I love meatballs. Adding to my make list! Wonder if it would work with lamb?
I would love to try your meatballs! Pardon me if it sounds a bit dodgy haha! 🙂 🙂