Polpette – small Italian meatballs

Serving size: 4
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

For the tomato sauce:
This sauce needs a minimum of two hours, longer if possible, but can be made well in advance and stored in jars.
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
Roughly 250g – 450g minced steak
Half a loaf of basic white bread – crusts removed and roughly torn
50ml milk
Olive oil

Featured in:
October 2013

I love the summer months and whilst we’ve had a spectacular season this year I am glad we’re heading into autumn – the crackling fires, the warm, snug clothing, a crisp chill in the air and of course the promise of bonfires, Halloween and, yes, even Christmas. The food is also so much more comforting.

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 recipe over the decades to become the wonderful dish we now all know and love. Polpette is usually made from two 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 a 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 Lincolnshire sausage meat to give the recipe some local spice!

It may all seem slightly fiddly but it’s a great dish to make with the kids and you can have the whole dish prepped and made in just over two hours.

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 sauté 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 its 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 it 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!

Don’t forget to follow Dominic on his blog belleaukitchen.com

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