In most regions of Italy, polpette (meatballs) are often just fried and eaten as is—as a snack or served as a second course—without any sauce or topping. Italian meatballs are often quite elaborate all by themselves. For example, some polpette recipes recommend adding various ingredients into the raw ground meat—such as, finely chopped mortadella or salame, or a bit of béchamel sauce (if you have any left over from other preparations).
Another possibility is to insert a small cube of fontina cheese, or another good melting cheese, into the middle of each polpetta before flouring and frying. To make a complete meal of polpette, try serving them with a mesclun or arugula salad, or any lightly sautéed vegetables, such as spinach or chard. In Italy, to assuage children’s insatiable lust for fried food, homemade patatine fritte (french fries) are sometimes served with polpette.
Italian meatloaf or polpettone—which literally means “big meatball”—is another classic of Italian cuisine. There are variations of polpettone in just about every region of the country. In southern Italy, polpettone is often served with a tomato sauce that is prepared directly in the pan with some onions and diced canned tomatoes. In this variation, you’ll baste the polpettone with the tomato sauce. Remember to scrape the bottom of the pan well, or deglaze it, so that the delicious brown juices and meat bits are blended into the sauce. Leftover polpettone makes for delicious sandwiches. Add a slice of mozzarella or any other tasty, melting cheese to a slice of polpettone, grill or broil it until hot, and serve between two slices of toasted ciabatta bread or a baguette—the renowned classic French bread that has become increasingly popular in Italy.
Both polpette and polpettone are usually big hits with kids in Italy. In fact, though blatant bribery is spurned by today’s child psychologists, no doubt some Italian mothers still hold out the promise of a delicious polpette dinner in exchange for performing some household chore or homework assignment.
For 18 meatballs.
2 lbs ground beef (85% lean)
½ large or medium onion, chopped
2 gloves garlic (minced)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup bread crumbs
Mix all ingredients together and then form meatballs.
Brown on all sides in olive oil.
When browned put in sauce to cook thru.
2 cans crushed tomatoes (use whatever brand you like)
1 medium onion, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
fresh basil, to taste (dried or frozen can also be used)
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (if you like more spice add more)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning and basil. Stir to combine flavors.
2. Add crushed tomatoes and stir. Fill about 1/3 can with water and swish around to clean tomatoes from sides and then pour into next can and do the same thing. Add to pot. Stir and add sugar, salt and pepper.
3. Let sauce come to a boil and add fried meatballs to the pot and stir gently. Reduce heat and let sauce simmer for 2 hours stirring frequently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
If you want to add sausage, beef steaks, pork ribs or neckbones saute them in oil in the same pan as the meatballs and add to sauce when you add meatballs putting heavier meats in first.