The Art of Eating's Polpette di Carne

Caroline Russock

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Art of Eating to give away this week.

When Edward Behr of The Art of Eating Cookbook thinks about meatballs he looks at the geography of Italy. If he's going for Venetian polpette he'll add sweet elements such as cinnamon, almonds, and sugar. And if he's adding pecorino to the mix, he'll fry them in olive oil instead of butter since the sheep's milk cheese is more commonly used in the south where the olive oil's from.

This recipe, adapted from The Art of Eating Cookbook is a template for all sorts of meatball variations. Feel free to do as Behr does and take inspiration from all over the boot.

Why you should make this: We went with the classic parsley-Parmesan-oregano combo which made for some pretty stellar meatballs: tender, moist and full of all of those great herb and cheese flavors.

Next time we might think about: We're planning on mixing it up; that cinnamon-lemon-almond variation sounds too good not to try.

Adapted from The Art of Eating Cookbook by Edward Behr. Copyright © 2011. Published by University of California Press. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Recipe Facts



Active: 45 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 pound ground chicken, veal, or beef
  • A slice of white bread, torn in pieces, enough to fill about 1 cup
  • A little milk or water
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried or roughly 3 times as much very finely chopped fresh herbs
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Soft or dry breadcrumbs for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups broth, stock, or tomato sauce 


  1. Cook the garlic in a little olive oil or butter over medium-low heat until it is translucent but not colored. Reduce the meat to a rough paste in a mortar or food processor, and place it in a large bowl. Soften the bread in a little milk or water for a few minutes, then squeeze out most of the liquid and add the bread to the meat, along with the garlic, cheese, parsley, other herbs, eggs, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

  2. Form the seasoned meat into polpette, which is to say balls about the size of a small mandarin orange and similarly flattened; roll them in breadcrumbs. (The bread-coated, uncooked polpette can be held in the refrigerator for a few hours until mealtime.) Brown them in butter or oil over medium heat, turning, until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, stock, or tomato sauce, and simmer to lightly reduce the liquid to a sauce, turning the polpette again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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