Witchdoctor’s sometime tech guru (and secret culinary fiend) PAT PILCHER shares another secret foodie delight in our new series, The Feeding Trough.
Polpettine is Italian meatballs. This delicious version comes from a café called La Girasole (the sunflower), which was on the island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples. Girasole was set on a stunning volcanic beach where you could wade out into the warm waters of the Med. Wading back to shore, you could dig a hole on the beach which would act as a DIY spa pool as it filled up with volcanically heated seawater. Once you’d soaked enough, you could wander up to Girasole and enjoy some of their delightful food.
At least that was the theory.
I had read about this fantastic beach, Girasole café and their delightful polpettine. Yet each time we visited Sorrento, we would be so jet-lagged that we’d oversleep and miss the early (and only) ferry sailing from Sorrento to Ischia. Several trips later, Jetlag finally worked in our favour, and we made it to the ferry, only to find that while the beach was stunning, Girasole had shut down for good. Thankfully, their recipe survives. It is a doddle to cook, and best of all, it tastes fantastic.
- 200g Lean Minced Beef
- 1x fresh Lemon with good skin
- 1x egg
- A handful of parsley
- Pinch of salt
- A few grinds of pepper
- 100g of breadcrumbs
- 100g Pine-nuts
- 100g parmesan
- 200g high-grade flour
- 2x eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Tablespoon olive oil
- 1x 400g tin of tomatoes
- 1x med sized onion
- 2x cloves of garlic
- 1x dried chilli finely chopped (optional)
- Glug of Red wine
- Place flour into a large bowl and make it look like a volcano with a crater
- Put the eggs, salt, and olive oil into the crater
- Using a fork, stir the flour/eggs/oil/salt until they are incorporated into a rough dough
- Knead the dough until a smooth, springy dough forms (10-15 mins)
- Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll the dough into a long sausage shape
- Cut into equally sized 2-4-inch pieces.
- Feed each piece twice through a pasta machine starting with its rollers on their widest setting, repeating and reducing the width of the pasta machine rollers until the machines rollers are on their 2nd thinnest setting (alternatively roll and re-roll with a rolling pin until each piece is about 2mm thick)
- With the fettuccine cutting attachment placed on the machine, lightly flour each piece, and feed it through the pasta machine to cut it into fettuccine shapes. Alternatively, cut using a knife aiming for around 10mm of width.
- Hang the fettuccine pieces on a pasta tree or lightly flour and spread out on a clean bench.
- Move on to the polpettine while the pasta dries
- Combine all the polpettine ingredients except the lemon into a food processor
- Zest the lemon into the polpettine ingredients
- Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the polpettine ingredients, (making sure to use a small strainer to keep lemon pips out)
- Blitz the ingredients for 5 seconds
- Place the meat mix in a clean bowl, cover and place the bowl in the fridge so flavours can incorporate
- After 45 minutes to an hour, remove from fridge and flour a clean work surface
- Taking a small piece of the polpettine mix, roll it into a cherry tomato sized ball. Place on the floured work surface, and press it to slightly flatten.
- Repeat until all the mixture is made into meatballs
- Finely cut both the onions and garlic
- Open the tin of tomatoes
- Adding olive oil to a medium/small pot
- Add chilli flakes (optional)
- Cook the onions on medium heat
- Add the garlic, stir into the onions, and cook until aromatic
- Add tomatoes breaking up chunks of tomatoes and stirring
- Add a splash of red wine
- Simmer until slightly reduced, turn off the heat, cover and set aside
- Adding oil to a large pan, turn the heat to medium and add polpettine. Turn them once or twice, and keep the pan covered to ensure they do not dry out
- Keeping an eye on the polpettine to make sure they are not burning, fill a large pot with boiled water from a kettle/electric jug, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring the pot to the boil
- While waiting for the pasta water to boil, turn the heat on low for the pasta sauce to reheat.
- Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook for around 2 minutes – the pasta should be Al Dente (soft but firm to the bite)
- When the pasta is cooked, spoon a tablespoon or two of the starchy pasta water into the pasta sauce (the starch in the pasta water will emulsify the pasta sauce, helping it stick to the pasta, creating a taste explosion).
- Using a pair of tongs, remove the pasta from the pot and place it in the pasta sauce, mixing so the sauce coats the pasta.
- Place the pasta and excess sauce on serving plates
- Add the polpettine, sprinkle with grated parmesan and add pepper to taste
- Serve with a glass of Sangiovese or Malbec. Salute!