As far back as 1897, Pellegrino Artusi, author of 'The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well', included three recipes for ‘polpetti’. In Tuscany they were a favourite of housewives who frugally made them using scraps of meat and bread to feed their hungry families. We are of course referring to the (not so humble) meatball. Here we’ve jazzed up the recipe with parmesan and a kick of chilli to tickle your taste buds.
Vegetable Stock Pot(ContainsCelery, Sulphites)
Boil the kettle. Finely chop the oregano. Peel and grate the garlic. Cut the celery into strips, then chop into 1cm cubes. Peel the carrot and chop into 1cm cubes. Grate the parmesan.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add your garlic, celery and carrot. Cook for 5 mins. TIP: If the ingredients start to brown, turn the heat down a little. Add the boiling water (amount specified in the ingredient list), vegetable stock pot and diced tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and leave your soup to simmer.
In a bowl, mix together the beef mince, two-thirds of your oregano, three-quarters of your cheese, the chilli flakes (careful, they're hot!), a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Divide your meat mixture into balls the size of a 20 pence coin and roll on a chopping board to get them round.
Add the Conchiglioni to the soup. Cook for about 12 mins until al dente. TIP: ‘Al dente’ simply means the pasta is cooked through but has a tiny bit of firmness left in the middle.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add your polpetti. Cook until completely browned on the outside, 5 – 7 mins. TIP: Be careful not to break them. Once browned, add your polpetti to your soup for the last 5 mins of pasta cooking time.TIP: The meatballs are cooked when they are no longer pink in the middle. Slice the ciabatta in half, before warming on the top shelf of your oven for 5 mins
Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of cheese and your remaining oregano. Use your ciabatta to ‘fare la scarpetta’ (this means ‘do the shoe’ in Italian, aka mop your plate clean!).