Tag Archives: Polpette

For the love of meat balls

My recent lunch in Polpo reminded me of how much I love Italian meatballs, or Polpette as they are there.

Polpette...with a bit of spagetti...even though I said I prefer them without!!..a hungry mother can change her mind can't she?

Meatballs are standard fare around the world. In Germany they are fried and called frikadeller or klopse and in Denmark they are frikadelier. In Indonesia and the Philippines they are more usually served in a noodle soup or broth.  In Portugal or Brazil they are almôndegas and cooked in a tomato sauce. I have my own recipe for these yummy little meatballs which seems to include elements from all the countries, although mine are more akin to the Italian inspired ones I had at Polpo that came with a rich tomato sauce, the perfect accompaniment to my mind.

Polpette are usually made with a mixture of beef and pork, bread soaked in milk and flavoured with a variety of ingredients such as onion, parsley, Romano cheese or garlic. They are commonly served as a second course with a salad, and not in the American style, with pasta. Having said this, serving them with pasta in Italy is not unheard of and I often do at home simply because the kids demand it!

I love them simply because they are hearty country fare. No fuss. No need for unneccessary adornment. But these succulent little balls are also versatile. They are perfect for lunch or supper; they make me think of raucous family dinners sat around a large table in the sun, but at the same time they comfortably hold their own as part of a restaurant menu. Even better, it is just as easy to make a vat full for a large hungry gathering as it is to make a small amount for two.

a massive pan of Polpette for a lot of people


To serve six to eight with or without pasta.

For the polpette: 2 thick slices ciabatta, 8 tablespoons milk, 350g minced pork, 350g minced beef, a good handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped fresh oregano, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large egg beaten.

For the sauce: 2 tins of cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato or sun-dried tomato puree, 1 teaspoon sugar, 150ml of red wine, or water, 2 cloves garlic crushed. Chopped parsley and fresh oregano. Salt and pepper.

Tear the bread into small pieces into a bowl removing the crusts. Pour over milk and leave for about ten minutes or so to soften. Add the pork and beef, half the parsley and oregano and garlic, salt and pepper. Knead well with clean hands to work all the ingredients together. There shouldn’t be any big lumps of bread left. Add the egg to bind and continue working the mixture together. spoon out about a dessertspoonful of mixture and form into a golf ball size/shape.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry the balls briskly until browned. Put to one side. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to the pan and bring to the boil squashing the cherry tomatoes into the sauce as you go. Once bubbling return the balls to the pan, turn the heat down low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Just before serving check the seasoning, then serve with a sharp lemony salad.


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Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, Italian food, Organic meat, Uncategorized


It’s not often I get to totally indulge myself, but on a rare free day (meaning no kids) during a visit down south to see my parents, I took a trip into the city for a lovely lunch, before a meeting with my writing mentor. It’s no secret that I miss eating out and that there is little opportunity for leisurely lunches back in Wales and since i’d read several glowing reviews of Polpo and sister restaurants Polpetto and Spuntino in the past few months I thought I’d pay the first of these a visit to check it out.

I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d like the ‘small plate’ concept as usually my leaning is towards a good-sized serving of hearty country fare, but since none of the reviewers appeared to have left the place hungry I guessed I should put my faith in their comments.

Polpo is beautifully laid back and full of understated style. Modelled on the traditional Venetian bacaro but housed in a traditional 18th century London building, it exudes its own rustic charm. My table faced a pretty little internal courtyard, bathed in sunshine and overflowing with scarlet geraniums I could almost have been in Venice. Well maybe not, but it certainly succeeded in reminding me of some of the places I visited when I was there many years ago.

Thankfully I got there early enough so that I didn’t have to wait for a table; fifteen minutes later the place was packed out. The young friendly waiters and waitresses were attentive and helpful and very ready to answer my questions “what are polpette”?  and the menu was adequate without being too extensive.

I ordered smoked salmon, horseradish and dill crostino to begin and then Polpette (meat balls), fennel and endive salad with almonds and some grilled focaccia to follow. I wasn’t sure how big the small plates would be so I erred on the side of caution not wishing to leave hungry! In the end I found that I had over ordered and couldn’t manage the last piece of focaccia.

Smoked salmon, horseradish and dill crostino

I was pleasantly surprised at the good chunky crostino with its generous helping of smoked salmon and the dollop of horseradish was as I like it, creamy and with a kick, but not too overpowering.

The polpette were deliciously rich and tomatoey, tender and juicy while the fennel and endive salad was sharp and fresh. The two complimented each other beautifully and I really didn’t need the focaccia, which was the only disappointing thing about the lunch. I like a chunky, earthy focaccia liberally strewn with rosemary and garlic, which is how I make it, while this was a rather thin and more ciabatta like bread.

I'm a rubbish food photographer...my stomach got the better of me and I layered everything on to my plate before I photographed it!!

While I still had time to spare I finished with a Machiatto and some chocolate salami, one of my favourite coffee accompaniments and one not often seen on restaurant menus. The waitress and I had a long conversation about it and I ascertained that this was a sugarless version made with figs. It certainly wasn’t as sweet as when I make it using cranberries or cherries, but was just as nice, with its slightly salty, earthy taste derived from the nuts and figs. It went very well with the dark chocolate and coffee.

Machiatto and chocolate salami

Russell Norman and Polpo definitely won me over and gained another fan. I have to admit that it really wasn’t a hard job; I am already a lover of good Italian food and all they had to do was give me that and plenty of it.  I want to go back. I want to take friends, but I will now have to wait until my next visit to London to try one of the other restaurants in the group.  I can’t wait!

My lunch cost me £20 for 3 courses and coffee. This included service. Bookings can only be made for lunch.

41 Beak Street
W1F  9SB

020 7734 4479

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Filed under eating out, Italian food, London Restaurants, Uncategorized