There is a bit of a wink-wink, friendly, dig-in-the-ribs ‘thing’ going on amongst food bloggers based in Italy (and Rome in particular) as regards the making of meat balls … (or is it just the one word, meataball? Hmmm). ‘Rachel Roddy started it !’, say I, pointing an accusatory finger at her – she of http://www.racheleats.wordpress.com fame … she’s to blame for it all, although, bless her it I can vouch with hand on heart that it was never her intention to spark off any competitive hoo-ha over the modest meat preparation that is a … ‘polpetta’: the Italian word for a meatball. Rachel, in this sense, reminds me of the most classy and classical protagonist of Greek Myth fame, Aphrodite … such a naughty one. Think Helen of Troy and guess who was behind it all, eyes raised to heaven, with index finger resting lightly on bottom lip, mouth ever so slightly and innocently open as if to say: “qui, moi?”. Aphrodite indeed … Take a look : “Aphrodite can also be said to have caused the Trojan War. This came about in the following fashion. When the hero Peleus was married to the sea-nymph Thetis, all the gods were invited to the ceremony — all but one that is. The slighted goddess happened to a specialist in sowing discord, so she maliciously deposited a golden apple on the banquet table. The fruit was inscribed with the legend, “For the fairest”. Immediately all the goddesses began to argue about whose beauty entitled her to be the rightful possesor of this prize. Finally it was decided to put the dispute to arbitration. Reasonably enough, the designated judge was to be the most handsome mortal in the world. This turned out to be a noble Trojan youth named Paris, who was serving as a shepherd at the time. So the three finalists — Aphrodite, Hera and Athena — sought him out in the meadow where he was tending his flocks. Not content to leave the outcome to the judge’s discernment, the three goddesses proceeded to offer bribes. Hera, Queen of Olympus, took Paris aside and told him she would help him rule the world. Athena, goddess of war, said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite sized Paris up and decided he would be more impressed with the guaranteed love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who happened to be married to the king of Sparta. Paris promptly awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite, who in turn enabled him to elope with Helen, who thenceforth became notorious as Helen of Troy. Helen’s husband and his brother raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, and this was the inception of the Trojan War.” (quote from http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/aphrodite.html). Well … none of us wants to spark off any kind of war, especially not a culinary one … so I hope you will enjoy today’s post about … yet ANOTHER meatball/polpette recipe. This one hails, originally from Emilia Romagna … but you can’t take the pancetta and/or pork jowl out of a Lazio gal like me … so I just had to add some to the original.
And now for a look at the ingredients: Bread soaked in milk, minced parsely, a packet of frozen peas, salt and pepper, nutmeg, two tablespoons grated pecorino cheese, 2 eggs, and roughly 500g of ground beef. Put the ground beef, 2 eggs, grated pecorino, salt and pepper, twist of nutmeg and minced parsely into a processor … and just blitz/whizz or whatever the verb is. And this is what you end up with. A bit … soggy. Sogginess … not a problem. Add some breadcrumbs, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the texture you desire. The meatballs have to be pillow-soft, remember? Don’t overdo it with the breadcrumbs. And then … find some amiable soul who will be all too willing to respond to your husky, Aphrodite-kindly request … as in, ‘Darling … would you mind making up a few meatballs for me, it would make life so marvellously simple for me if you did, and I would be FOREVER grateful …?’ blink blink, sweet smile on your face … you know what I mean. In my case, favourite husband obliged most decently … the darling man. But then, he knows which side his bread his buttered on … Ready? Time to start cooking. But before we do … one more step. One carrot, 1 onion and 1 celery stalk … and some tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro). In terms of weight … you will need the same amount of weight of passata as you will of meat: so in this case, it was 500g meat, 500 ml passata di pomodoro. The Roman/Lazio in me … pork jowl … aka … guanciale. I can’t think of any preparation that doesn’t stand to benefit from this ideal savoury ingredient. Chop up the carrot, celery and onion … and cook over a low heat with some evoo. The so-called and much loved Italian ‘soffritto’. And while the soffritto is cooking away … dice up as much or as little of guanciale/pork jowl as you think will enhance this dish: And then add add it to the soffritto: Once the guanciale has rendered its fat … Time to add the passata di pomodoro (tomato sauce). Add a pinch of salt and 1 of sugar … And now … time to get the meatballs simmering away …. Add them to the tomato sauce. Take your time, gently does it. Simmer, with the lid on, for about 30 minutes, over a not-too-low heat. Then … add the frozen peas. Turn up the heat for a few mintues … Lower the heat again and simmer for another 10 minutes. And here they are … these beauties ! This was what was left the next day …A good amount … enough to warrant some freezing … good for a rainy day, hey!