(These meatballs pair well with this easy-to-make pasta dish from the 19th century.)
These are so delicious they’re an act of love. Like all good things they take a little work but aren’t the loved ones in your life worth it?
Restaurant owner and cookbook author Biba Caggiano has the best recipe for meatballs or polpette (as the Italians call them).
What makes them truly great and different is that she uses a variety of meats, including mortadella, and each ball is dipped in egg and breadcrumbs before fried, giving them a tender crust.
They’re so delicious you can eat them plain, without tomato sauce. But I like them with a light sauce: one that isn’t overcooked and where you can taste the fresh tomatoes.
I also deviate a little from her recipe by adding some ground beef. Biba’s mother’s recipe just uses the following meats: ground veal, pork sausage, and mortadella.
You can serve them just like this. Or you can put them in a large pot of your favorite tomato sauce over low heat and cook them a little more. You can use this tomato sauce recipe (adapted from my mother’s recipe) but I’d omit the sausage and possibly add a fresh tomato, chopped fine, or a can of diced tomatoes to give it a fresh taste.
Stir occasionally being careful not to break apart the meatballs. Serve this and it will strike a chord in the hearts of people you love, stronger than an arrow from Cupid’s bow.
Here’s my recipe based on Biba’s Mother’s recipe:
Biba's Mother's Fried Meatballs
These take a little time and effort to make because you need to dip them in eggs and breadcrumbs before frying.
- White bread (4 slices or 2 large and thick slices of Italian bread)
- Milk (1 cup)
- Ground veal (1 pound)
- Ground beef (1 pound)
- Ground pork (1/2 pound)
- Mortadella, chopped finely (1/2 pound)
- Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
- Grated Imported Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) (2 cups)
- Large eggs, lightly beaten (6)
- Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
- Dried bread crumbs (2-4 cups)
- Olive oil (Enough for frying)
- Step 1 Remove crusts from bread and soak in milk for about 5 minutes.
- Step 2 Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Add the veal, beef, pork, mortadella, nutmeg parmesan cheese, and 3 eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined well.
- Step 3 Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hand into a ball about the size of small egg. Place on a plate and continue to do this until all of the meat mixture is used.
- Step 4 Lightly beat the remaining 3 eggs in a bowl. Dip the meatballs in the egg mixture and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Flatten them slightly with the palms of your hand and put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. They can be refrigerated for several hours. Just be sure to tightly cover them with plastic wrap.
- Step 5 Heat an inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, lower the meatballs in batches with a slotted spoon. Do not crowd the pan as this will cause them to cook unevenly and burn. When they’re golden on one side (about 1-2 minutes), turn them over and brown on the other side. Once they are cooked through, transfer them to a dish or platter lined with paper towels to drain.