These Polpetti Al Forno are a stunningly simple but indulgent family style Italian favourite of mine.
I have travelled to Italy a number of times and always learn some new culinary gems while I am there.
This polpetti al forno is my twist on a classic Southern meatball recipe but baked almost like a lasagne but without the pasta. I created it a number of years ago while I had my children’s cookery school at the Cliff at Lyons in Kildare and let me tell you the kids adored it. Thats why I have decided to share it here.
I will give you some of my wonderful secrets to the best polpetti ( baby meatballs ) in the world and show you how to cook like a real Italian.
Although this recipe is a little more indulgent than normal there are a couple of core Foodoppi principles at its heart:
- Cook from scratch – like your granny and the Italian Nonna’s – that way you know exactly what goes into it for your family.
- Wholemeal bread to get in a little extra fibre anywhere possible
- Sneaky veg – a lovely sweet summery courgette to get in some extra veg where possible.
- Family style cooking – by serving and eating together in this family “help yourself” style it really helps children be a little more adventurous and try new foods as they are in control.
Now to the recipe
Secrets of a perfect meatball !
- Use a combination of two meats – beef and pork – the flavour payoff and texture is incredible. Traditionally it would be veal or a combo of veal and one or the other but lets face it who is going searching for veal on a Tuesday ?
- Soak the bread in milk – best tip ever !!! this keeps the meatballs incredibly moist and soft.
- Add parmesan for natural umami – that delicious deep rich savoury flavour ( means less added salt int eh recipe)
- Use 1 herb only dried oregano – fresh herbs stay “too big” and obvious for little ones so dried herbs are more intense, you use less and they can’t really be detected but add a great authentic Italian background flavour.
- Saute / brown them off for a little caramelisation and an extra oomph of umami flavour.
Keep on reading for the full recipe, I hope your family love my polpetti as much as mine and if you do make them be sure to share a pic on social media and tag us.
With fun and deliciousness,
What You'll Need
250g / 500g minced beef ( singled / double batch)
250g / 500g minced pork ( singled / double batch)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 courgette ( skin on, grated and all water squeezed out )
2 slices wholemeal bread
50g grated parmesan
2 tbsp oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 jar passata
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
20 g parmesan
50g butter / margarine
50g white flour
500 mls milk
120g mozzarella/cheddar grated
100g polenta & 1L water and 1 tsp salt / 1/2 Chicken stock cube
ovenproof pot /saucepan
How to Do It
- 1Preheat the oven. Soak the bread in the milk. Grate the parmesan. Grate the courgette and squeeze out all the water.
- 2Combine the meat, soaked bread, parmesan, onion and garlic powder and courgette in a large bowl. With clean wet hands roll into 24 small meatballs.
- 3Heat the oil in a large oven proof saucepan and cook the meatballs in small batches .
Remove from the pan and set aside.
- 1To make the tomato sauce fry the ingredients for the sauce and simmer for 20mins.
While the tomato sauce is simmering make the béchamel sauce.
Classic White Sauce
- 1To make the béchamel - melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour and cook out for 1 minute. Gradually add in the milk and stir in until it get gradually gets thick.
Stir in the cheese and the seasoning.
- 1Into the oven proof saucepan with the cooked tomato sauce pop back in the meatballs, spoon over the creamy béchamel sauce and sprinkle with some mozzarella.
Bake for 20 / 30mins.
Serve with creamy polenta, crusty bread or pasta.