Cookbook Profile

My Mother's Fried Meatballs

Polpette Fritte di Mia Mamma
Serves 6 to 8


The special craving I have for polpette is as much emotional as it is gustatory, since it is one of the nurturing dishes of my childhood. Try my mother's polpette, then try the variation, in which they are enriched by an appetizing tomato and bean sauce.


2 slices white bread
1 cup milk
3/4 pound ground veal
1/2 pound Homemade Bolognese sausage or mild Italian pork sausage
   (containing no fennel seeds, chile pepper, or strong spices),
   casings removed and chopped
1/4 pound sliced mortadella, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
2 cups fine dried bread crumbs
Olive off for frying


Remove the crusts from the bread and tear it into pieces. Put it in a small bowl, add the milk, and let soak for 5 minutes.

Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Place the bread in a large bowl and add the veal, sausage, mortadella, nutmeg, Parmigiano, and eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper and mix until well combined.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hands into a ball about the size of a very small egg. Place on a plate, then repeat until all the meat is used up.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Dip the meatballs in the beaten eggs, coat them evenly with the bread crumbs, and flatten them a little with the palms of your hands. Place the polpette in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. (They can be refrigerated, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for several hours.)

Heat 1 inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is nice and hot, lower the polpette, in batches into the oil with a slotted spoon, making sure not to crowd the pan. As soon as the polpette are golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, turn them and brown the other side. Transfer the polpette to paper towels to drain. Pile the polpette on a warm serving platter and bring to the table.


Fried polpette are delicious and versatile. They can be served as a casual appetizer, a snack, or a light lunch or dinner. In the countryside of Emilia-Romagna, they are often served with tender leaves of wild chicory or with Parmigiano-enriched mashed potatoes.

Buy the Book!


Biba's Taste of Italy
By Biba Caggiano
Morrow Cookbooks/An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
William Morrow, March 2001
Hardcover, $38.00, 416 pages
ISBN: 0-688-15815-3
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Biba's Taste of Italy



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This page created May 2001