Meatballs – one of those dishes which unites the nations, everybody cooks them, everybody loves them. But apparently, according to history, Romans knew better. When you ask an Italian about meatballs, you can get into all sorts of discussions about what goes in to a meatball. But one thing is (almost always) certain: they tell you that their mother, their grandmother or their aunt made the best polpette. Other then that, it can be debated how the meatballs should be served or eaten: on its own, with or without the sauce, or even with some pasta.
Today’s recipe is from wonderful Polpo book.
There is a bit of love required to make the tomato sauce but the polpette are a breeze and the combination of fennel and pork tastes great, just a little bit unusual. You can reduce the amount of chilli flakes or fennel seeds to suit your taste. The original recipe asks for 20g of fennel seeds (in comparison, standard supermarket’s jag is 34g), I wasn’t brave to put more than half of it, I added 10g only and it was plenty to my liking.
PORK AND FENNEL POLPETTE
For the sauce:
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
small pinch chilli flakes
750g fresh tomatoes
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
For the Polpette:
1.5 kg minced pork
3 medium free-range eggs
large pinch of dried chilli flakes
10g fennel seeds, lightly toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- To make a sauce, heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. When transparent, add the fresh tomatoes and the rest of the oil and cook on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat and add the heat and add the oregano. Taste and see if it needs any sugar. When you’re pleased with the taste, blend together with a hand blender or in a food blender. Sometimes I like to leave my sauce chunky.
- To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, salt and pepper into a large mixing bown and massage thoroughly. Roll into approx 45g balls, place them on a greased baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once until they are starting to brown.
- Poach meatballs in the tomato sauce for 10 minutes.
- Serve on its own with some nice crusty bread or focaccia, or if you dare even with pasta.
ITALIAN CHICKEN WITH BASIL AND CHERRY TOMATOES
4 chicken legs, halved through the joints
Olive oil (approx 4 table spoons)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 bay leaves
100 ml white wine
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry oregano
250 g cherry tomatoes
25 g basil leaves, torn into pieces
125 g mozzarella cheese
salt & pepper
1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces until brown. Drain to a plate.
2. Add the onion and celery to the pan and gently fry for about 10 minutes, add the garlic, bay leaves and fry for a further 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine, can of chopped tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Then reduce the heat, return chicken pieces to the pan and cook very gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes.
4. Then place cherry tomatoes around the chicken, put on top torn half of the basil, following by torn pieces of mozzarella on top and cook for 20 minutes under the lead.
5. Stir in the rest of the basil leaves just before the serving and check for seasoning. Enjoy!
These biscotti are loaded with chunks of hazelnuts and chocolate, and are perfect for dunking in your coffee. They are crisp and crunchy, with a deep chocolate flavor that comes from adding both unsweetened cocoa powder and dark chocolate to the batter. You can make them as crunchy as you prefer by leaving them longer in an oven during the second bake. Original recipe asked for pistachios but I didn’t have them on hands, so I used the hazelnuts instead and was pleased with the result.
CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUTS BISCOTTI
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe)
6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for baking sheet
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
- Heat oven to 180C. Butter and flour a baking sheet; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beat until well combined. Add flour mixture, and stir to form a stiff dough. Stir in toasted hazelnuts and chopped chocolate.
- Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 30 x 10cm. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 150C.
- On a cutting board, using a sharp knife, cut biscotti diagonally into 2.5cm slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8 minutes (or longer, depends on how crunchy you want them to be).