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Pasta Polpette

This is a classic dish from Italy utilising some fabulous and affordable ingredients.  As a kid I lived off this kind of food and still get excited when I see meatballs on a menu.  The recipe for the meatball came from a friend who lives in the Abruzzo region of Italy and I swear to god it is the best I have tried/found. The polpette retain a lot of their moisture and don't break up, a problem many people seem to have.  The sauce is a traditional family recipe, and tastes great with this dish!

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For the Meatballs:

250 grams of minced Beef

250 grams of minced Pork

1 cup of bread crumbs,

Good handful of flat leaf parsley

Handful of Parmesan cheese

500ml of milk (you wont need it all, but have a cup handy)

1 egg

Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons of Tomato paste

2 cloves of Garlic

Pinch of Chilli flakes (optional)

Drizzle of Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Handful of Black olives

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of Sugar

½ Lemon

pinch of fresh Parsley



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I'd start by making the sauce so you can let it just sit on the hob and reduce down.  So, into your pan goes olive oil and thin slithers of garlic. 


Add some chilli flakes if desired and pour in the two cans of chopped tomatoes.  I'd drop in two or three teaspoons of tomato paste (like sun dried tomato paste, or red pesto even) instead of tubes of tomato puree which are a bit too sweet for me.  Let this simmer away and add a handful of chopped black olives, salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar (wine or lemon juice can be used instead). I'd also advise you throw in a bit of the parsley, but not too much as you're going to need it for garnish and for the meatballs.  Once this is done, let it sit simmering on the hob until the meatballs are ready.



Place both lots of the mince into a mixing bowl and just chuck in a handful of parsley, the bread crumbs, the egg, salt and pepper (to taste) and maybe a fifth of your milk.  Your not looking for a really wet mixture, you want it relatively heavy and dry, just think of the egg and milk as a bit of binding agent.  Before you start mixing I would grate in a handful of parmesan cheese to add a little bite.  Get your hands stuck in and really knead the mixture until you have basically one really big ball.



Now divide the mixture into little balls about the size of golf balls, roll in your hand until they are smooth and dust with a bit of flour (in some parts of Italy they are rolled in bread crumbs, your choice).



Once you've made a stack of balls, turn on the oven to 200˚C and heat some oil and garlic in a pan and fry them gently until the outsides are browned.  (When frying, be really gentle, as it is at this point they could break up, if they do, don't worry it'll still taste great).



At this point, take them out the frying pan and place on an oven tray.  Cover the polpette with some foil (this will keep the moisture in) then cook them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.


Once the polpette are cooked, carefully drop them into your sauce and let them sit in the ragu simmering away for a bit of flavour.



Get your pasta on the go, spaghetti is best, 10-12 minutes in a rolling boil with lots of salt in the water (Carluccio says saltier than the Mediterranean).


When cooked and 'Al Dente' (with bite) add a bit of your pasta water to the sauce, just a drop as ragu loves a bit of starchy pasta water.  Drain the pasta and get it really dry then pop back into the pot.



For me, this stage is the most important...'the introduction.'  Get a frying pan and heat up some oil, pop in a handful (portion size) of spaghetti and some sauce and meatballs.  The key is not to use too much sauce, the pasta just needs to be coated so it becomes a nice orangey/terracotta colour.  Introducing the pasta and sauce will give you the perfect balance in the dish.


Plate it up with 4 or 5 meatballs, lots of fresh chopped parsley and long shavings of parmesan. Perfetto.

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