Polpettine




Makes 4 small plates
For the sauce
extra virgin olive oil
onion 1
salt a large pinch
garlic cloves 2
dried chilli a pinch
thyme 3 sprigs
oregano 3 sprigs
plum tomatoes 2 x 400g tin
unwaxed lemon zest of 1
For the polpettine
onion 1 large
garlic cloves 2
salt a pinch
rosemary 2 sprigs
thyme 3 sprigs
extra virgin olive oil
bread (stale or fresh) 2 slices
milk 100ml
parmesan 5g, plus extra
dijon mustard 1 tsp
beef mince 250g
pork mince 120g
dried chilli ½ tsp
fresh nutmeg grated, to taste

Heat a glug of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on a low heat. Halve, peel and slice the onion. Add with the salt to the hot pan then reduce the heat and cook for ten minutes or so until soft. While the onions are cooking, peel and finely slice the garlic.
Stir through the garlic, chilli and herbs and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes and their juices from the tins. Swill each of the emptied tins with a little water to get the last remnants of tomato and add this to the pan too. Increase the heat to high and simmer for a few minutes, avoiding the temptation to keep stirring. Then turn the heat down low and leave to reduce to a thick chunky texture. The longer you cook it, the better the sauce will be. I tend to leave it to simmer quietly for about 30 minutes to an hour while I make the meatballs.
While the sauce is reducing, make the polpettine. Peel the onion and garlic, dicing the onion as finely as you can. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic with the salt to a smooth paste. Pick and finely chop the rosemary and thyme leaves.
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3 and lightly grease a baking tray.
Put a pan on the heat with a little olive oil and sweat down the onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Once they’re completely soft, spread them over a plate and put it in the fridge to cool.
Soak the bread in the milk in a shallow bowl for five to ten minutes until the milk has been absorbed. Grate the parmesan on a fine setting. Once softened, break the bread into small chunks with your hands and discard any leftover milk.
Put the cooled onions and garlic, soaked bread, parmesan, mustard, beef and pork mince, chilli and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix together with your hands. Be careful not to overwork the mixture.
I like meatballs to be light and juicy, and overworking results in a very dense and heavy meatball. Grease your hands with a few drops of olive oil and then shape the mixture into balls about the size of giant marbles.
Place the polpettine on the greased baking tray and bake in the oven for ten minutes. They will still be soft when they come out – the baking is just to colour them and set their shape, not to cook them through which happens in the sauce.
Grate the lemon zest into the now-reduced sauce and add a splash of olive oil. Then add the polpettine to the sauce to simmer for a few minutes to cook through.
Serve on small plates and eat topped with finely grated parmesan and a dash of olive oil.