During the Spring 2012 I taught one of many interdisciplinary undergraduate seminars in the Experimental Study Group at MIT. Each class is based on the preparation of a simple delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture.
Videography by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

Click here to watch the videos in full resolution.
Buon divertimento!

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Le polpette di carne, di tonno e vegetariane

For the videos of this class click here and here.

Polpette di carne
= meatballs

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-200 g carne macinata (ground meat, we used a mix of beef and sausages with the skin removed)
-1-2 cipolle (onions)
-aglio (garlic, as much or as little as you like)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-parmigiano grattugiato (grated parmisan cheese)
-prezzemolo (italian parsley, 1 bunch)
-spezie (spices)-> include noce moscata (nutmeg )

Optional: pan grattato (bread crumbs) -1 uovo (egg) – passata di pomodoro (strained tomatoes)- zucchero (sugar)


You can cook the meatballs in three different ways: deep fried, sauted or in tomato sauce.
This recipe is for the last two options. If you want to fry them, follow the same steps (2->5) then..deep fry them and drain the oil on paper towels.

1- in a large pan prepare a soffritto (sweat) with chopped garlic and onions: if you plan to use tomato sauce you can make the sweat with very little oil; otherwise you can use a couple of spoons of olive oil and more onions or other veggies (e.g. carrots, celery).
2-in the meantime mince the rest of the onions and the parsley.
3- combine the ground meat, minced onions and parsley, a pinch of salt and your favorite spices.
4- Optional (more heavy): add some bread crumbs and 1 egg.
5- Make small meatballs: if they are smaller they cook faster, I like them of the size of a walnut.
6- Add the meatballs to the sweat, increase the heat and saute until brown on all sides and all the water they release evaporates.
7- (over 21: add a glass of red wine and simmer until the alcohol is evaporated)
8- Le polpette sono pronte! (are ready)
9- If you like them in tomato sauce, take a box of plain strained tomatoes (e.g. Pomì) and mix
with the meatballs. Add salt a little of sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick.

In the US meatballs are usually served on top of pasta. We typically serve meatballs as a second course, with some veggies as a side.

In class we made a salad with lattuga/insalata romana (romaine lettuce), pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) and the basic italian dressing (condimento): salt, extravirgin olive oil, and vinegar or a little lemon juice.

Polpette di zucchine = zucchini-balls

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-2 zucchine/i
-1 spicchio di aglio (garlic clove)
-1 uovo (egg)
-Pan grattato/Pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated->bread crumbs)
-50 g pecorino romano grattuggiato (grated). You can also use parmisan instead, or another hard cheese
-1 bunch of erba cipollina (chives). Good alternatives: mint or parsley
-spezie (spices) e.g. a tiny bit of nutmeg and/or cardamom, curry (not used much in the Italian kitchen)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-sale (salt)


1- Make a soffritto (sweat) with garlic (minced, or in disks, or as a whole, base on your taste).
2- In the meantime wash and grate the zucchini.
3- When the garlic is a little translucent, add the grated zucchini and cook at high heat, add salt and spices.
4- When most of the water from the zucchini is evaporated, remove from heat and let cool.
5- Pre-heat the oven at 200 C (about 400 F) C=Celsius or centigradi.
6- In a bowl combine the zucchini-mix with the egg, grated cheese, minced chives. You can use your hands to mix everything. Optional: you can add roasted pinenuts.
7- Add the plain bread crumbs: you want to add them to get a more solid consistency, but if you add too many bread crumbs the zucchini-balls will be hard and less tasty.
8- Make zucchini-balls of about 1 inch in diameter.
9- Optional: you can gently roll them in bread crumbs
10- take an oven tray and spread a thin coat of olive oil.
11- Cuocere in forno a 200 C (circa 400 F) for about 15 minuti.

Polpette di tonno = tuna-balls

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-200 g tonno in olio d’oliva (canned tuna in olive oil)
-1 uovo (egg)
-30 g parmigiano grattuggiato (grated parmisan)
-100 g ricotta cheese
-50 g pan grattato/pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated->bread crumbs)
- Optional: prezzemolo (italian parsley, 1 bunch)
-spezie (spices)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-sale (salt)


1- Drain the tuna.
2- In a bowl combine the tuna, grated parmisan, egg, ricotta, spices, bread crumbs and a pinch of salt. If you want, include some minced leaves of parsley.
3- Make tuna-balls of the size of a cherry-tomato.
4- Saute them in a large pan with very little olive oil until golden.
5- Alternatively, you can bake them (read the zucchini-balls recipe) .

Buon appetito!

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