Once upon a time, there was a restaurant called Paradosso where I live. You could sit in the romantic garden or the simply furnished, yet elegant dining room and enjoy the most delightful italian food. Everything they served was finger-licking good, but I have particularly fond memories of their meatballs which were authentically announced as polpette al sugo by the staff. Sadly, the Paradosso closed down a few years ago and I forgot about the meat balls. Until I was so lucky to taste the ones P., peanut-bee's boyfriend made in when I visisted them in Berlin. He served them as a main course after a primo of spaghetti with home-made pesto, with crusty ciabatta to mop up the sauce. Peanut-bee and her boyfriend are nowhere near as obsessed with food and cooking as I am, but they are both wonderful cooks who can whip up the most delectable food without consulting five different cookbooks first. The Berlin dinner (including the zabaione al marsala served for dessert) was some kind of culinary golden section, a completely harmonious composition of flavours and textures, perfect in its simplicity. The kind of meal that prompts me to make a mental note to remember that sometimes less is more and never to forget about meatballs again. I didn't and even made them myself the other day.
They are quite a lot of work so I made a large quantity and froze the leftovers. (First, I made a simple tomato sauce with onions sautéd in olive oil and one large bottle of passata and left it to simmer while I prepared the meat). For the polpette, I used:
- 600g mincemeat (mixed in my case: pork, veal and beef)
- 4 slices toast, crust cut off
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- salt and pepper
Soak the bread in warm water for a few minutes, then squeeze out the excess moisture and mush up with a fork. Fry the onion and parsley in a little olive oil until the onions are soft. Add all the ingredients to the mincemeat and mix thoroughly with your hands (this is my favourite part). Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems too wet. (At this stage, I fried up a tiny bit of meat to check the seasoning knowing about my tendency to be a bit too cautious with the salt.) Form smallish balls with your hands and roll them in a little flour. Put on a plate and chill for at least an hour. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the meatballs in batches from all sides over a medium heat for a few minutes. Drain on kitchen paper, then place in the tomato sauce and simmer very gently for about thirty minutes.
Serve with pasta or just crusty white bread. Ecco - comfort food all'italiana!