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RECIPE: Polpette di Nonna Anna — Nonna Anna's meatballs — from Tortellini at Midnight


Our cookbook of the week is Tortellini at Midnight by Tuscany-based food writer and photographer Emiko Davies. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with its author.

Polpette di Nonna Anna (Nonna Anna’s meatballs) provided the inspiration for Emiko Davies’s third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight . Originating with her Tuscan husband Marco’s great-grandmother, Davies saw it as more than a family recipe. Treasured by generations, it had travelled over time and space: It was an heirloom.

“I started talking to family members and asking them to cook me more things,” Davies laughs, recalling the first time her mother-in-law Angela made her the meatballs. “And talking about some of the dishes they remember from when they were younger and people were cooking more. It started from this one recipe.”

Angela typically serves the polpette in the “very, very tasty” tomato sauce as a second course alongside roasted potatoes and salad. In this case, Davies explains, you’re left with a fair bit of leftover sauce, which you could toss with pasta (pasta al pomodoro) the next day.

“You could either do that or the traditional way, which would be to serve the sauce with the pasta as a first course and then, during the same meal, have the meatballs as the main after the pasta,” she adds. “It’s so much food … (but) I think leftovers are really an essential thing to have around the house.” Even better, the flavours only improve with time.

POLPETTE DI NONNA ANNA

Nonna Anna’s Meatballs

700 g (1 lb 9 oz) ground beef
300 g (10 1/2 oz) ground pork
2 eggs
50 g (1 3/4 oz) parmesan, grated
50 g (1/2 cup) dry breadcrumbs
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve
1 tsp salt, plus extra to taste
60 mL (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
80 g (2 3/4 oz) pancetta or rigatino, finely sliced
700 g (1 lb 9 oz) tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)

Step 1

Combine the beef, pork, eggs, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and some freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Mix very well – using your hands is best – until you have a firm, well-amalgamated mixture. Shape into balls a little larger than golf balls. Set aside on a plate.

Step 2

Heat the olive oil over a medium–high heat in a deep casserole pot. Sear the polpette in batches, for about 2 minutes each side, until they are lightly browned. (You don’t need to cook them through; just colour them.) Once the meatballs are browned, reduce the heat to low and gently fry the onion slices and pancetta for about 7 minutes, or until the onion is softened and the pancetta melts and begins to crisp slightly.

Step 3

Return the meatballs to the pot. Add the passata, along with 250 mL (1 cup) water. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over a low–medium heat. Cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a rich, thick consistency.

Step 4

Serve the polpette as is, with plenty of sauce, together with roasted potatoes and a crisp green salad, or set aside the meatballs separately (keeping them warm) and toss your favourite pasta, cooked al dente, through the sauce. Serve this as the first course with some Parmesan and parsley, then serve the meatballs as the main.

Serves: 6-8

Recipe excerpted from Tortellini at Midnight: And Other Heirloom Family Recipes from Taranto to Turin to Tuscany by Emiko Davies, published in 2019 by Hardie Grant Books, an imprint of Hardie Grant Publishing. Photography by Lauren Bamford. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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