Neapolitan Meatballs // Polpette alla Napoletana

It’s only recently that I discovered a love affair with ground meats. I’d never found much reason to use them in my adult life, probably due to childhood burnout – I think it was the only meat I remember my father cooking (via meatloaf, hamburger helper, chili, goulash, hamburgers, tacos, spaghetti sauce, and so on), and my mom was no stranger to it either. It wasn’t my fave then, but now, NOW I’ve discovered meatballs.

It’s like a culinary door has been opened in my head. You mean I can alter the texture of this stuff, make it meltingly tender and spherical, and studded with little fruits and nuts and vegetables that are infused with meat-juice? Oh, there is no way that this could be bad. And the flavour possibilities are endless! Suddenly it’s like a canvas, already turned into a mix-able format for you, ready for all possible variations! I’m excited about this stuff, yes? I’ve already winged my own breakfast sausages (remove breadcrumbs, add a reasonable about of brown sugar or syrup and take the spice level way up), and am mad excited to properly explore the world that is DUMPLINGS.

But this is important – this is the first meatball recipe I tried and I loved. I must admit that I added soy sauce to the mix because one of the most talented cooks that I know is a Filipino woman who does just that to hers. Oh, and green onions, because I like a little green punch sometimes. Okay, all the time. Plus it tastes good.

And still… pretty darned Italian.

Polpette alla Napoletana (Neapolitan Meatballs)

recipe from Mario Batali’s cooking app, Mario Cooks

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or a mix of beef and pork)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pecorino, grated
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted for 2 minutes in a 400 degree F oven
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional – using 1 tablespoon of salt would be more traditional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, bring tomato sauce to a fast simmer.

In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, pine nuts, salt, soy sauce and pepper and mix by hand to incorporate bread into meat – about 1 minute. With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 to 15 meatballs, each of a size somewhere between a tennis ball and a golf ball.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil until almost smoking. Add the meatballs, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook until deep golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Serve warm or at room temperature, note that Italians would rarely serve meatballs with pasta.  (but we did, because we’re super gauche like that, and the Ninja was making the best tomato sauce in the world.  It was rad!

3 thoughts on “Neapolitan Meatballs // Polpette alla Napoletana

  1. Jes says:

    I’ve had a love affair with meatballs since going non-vegan too–they pack such a punch in just a bite, plus they’re so fun to cook! I really like your soy sauce addition (bet a dash fish sauce would be ridic too), going to have to try it in my next batch!


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