Pancetta, mushroom and a hint of truffle salt round out these meatballs and make them a certain hit.
Makes 20 meatballs
65 g (21/4 oz) polenta (cornmeal), plus extra for coating
100 g (31/2 oz) pancetta pieces
200 g (7 oz) portobello mushrooms, diced
70 g (21/2 oz) butter
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) pork
200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) veal
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of truffle salt
zest of 1/2 orange
25 g (1 oz/1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
10 sage leaves, chopped
olive oil spray, for baking
1 Cook the polenta according to the packet instructions and set aside to cool until it becomes firm.
2 Add the pancetta to a dry frying pan and cook for several minutes over medium heat, then add the mushrooms, butter, garlic and chilli and a small drizzle of olive oil. Cook until the mushrooms take on a nice deep-brown colour and are soft to touch. This will take around 8 minutes. Set the mixture aside to cool.
3 Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F) and add a small ovenproof saucer of water to the back of the oven to create humidity.
4 Break up the cooked polenta into small chunks.
5 Season the pork and veal in a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, including the polenta and the cooled pancetta mushroom mix. Combine thoroughly and form 50 g (1³/₄ oz) balls, then roll the balls in the extra (uncooked) polenta.
6 Carefully place the balls in a baking tray and gently spray them with olive oil spray. Bake in the humid oven for around 8 minutes.
Creamy (or grilled) Polenta
Warm polenta will go with almost any style of meatball. This recipe uses chicken stock but you can easily substitute it with vegetable stock to make it vegetarian.
800 ml (28 fl oz) milk
200 ml (7 fl oz) chicken stock
240 g (8½ oz) polenta (cornmeal)
80 g (2¾ oz/¾ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
100 g (3½ oz) butter, cut into cubes
truffle oil (optional)
pinch of ground nutmeg,
to taste (optional)
1 Warm the milk and chicken stock in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Just before boiling point, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the polenta, stirring continuously with a whisk.
2 Keep whisking until the polenta is cooked (it’s ready when it’s no longer grainy). This process should take 45 minutes.
3 Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir through the parmesan and butter. The final consistency should be thick and creamy. Add a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkling of nutmeg if you want.
4 To make grilled polenta, add 100 g (31/₂ oz) extra polenta to the hot milky stock and whisk until fully cooked. Spread the polenta out on a tray and put in the fridge until firm. Cut the polenta into any shape you’d like, dust with a little more polenta, then fry in a hot pan with some olive oil until golden.
Italian Veal Jus
Here’s a classic Italian sauce, which uses high-quality veal stock combined with vegetables and herbs. Take your time making this sauce and let it gently reduce to develop flavour.
Makes 800 grams (1 lb 12 oz)
250 g (9 oz) dried porcini mushrooms
warm water, for soaking
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
100 g (3½ oz) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
200 ml (7 fl oz) white wine
200 ml (7 fl oz) veal stock
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf
1 thyme sprig, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the warm water until they become soft and rehydrated. Slice the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
2 Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and start cooking the onion and garlic. Add the celery and cook for several minutes until golden.
3 Add the mushrooms, stir in the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes. Add the white wine and reduce for a minute or two.
4 Add the veal stock and the lemon zest, and simmer gently for at least 30 minutes. Finish by adding the parsley and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for another 3–5 minutes.
Recipes and images from Meatballs: The Ultimate Guide by Matteo Bruno (Murdoch Books) $35 available now.