Lekker: Meatballs in White Wine Sauce (Polpette della Nonna)

Okidoke, here we go again! Continuing on with my series of classic Italian recipes adopted from my cooking classes with Chef Andrea and re-written here with permission, today I have some delicious Meatballs in White Wine Sauce to offer you.

We served these with yummy Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, but I can imagine they would be equally delicious over some egg noodles. I typically only do Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam and the whole shebang, but this is a fabulous more traditional option. I love that Chef Andrea writes his recipes in the same casual, intuitive way that I usually do--a glass of this, a random nebulous amount of "loaf"--though I know it can be frustrating for the perfectionists among us. Just have a glass or three of the Chardonnay that the recipe calls for, and suddenly it'll matter a whole lot less, I promise.

Buon appetito! 

I assure you, this is the only (and therefore by default, the best) photo I could grab of the dish before it was devoured by hungry culinary students.

Meatballs in White Wine Sauce (Polpette della Nonna)
serves 4

What You Need
1 pound ground meat (the ideal mixture is 70% beef and 30% unseasoned pork sausage, squeezed from their casings, or just plain ground pork if you can't find unseasoned sausages)
1 egg
1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup grated Fontina or Edam cheese
1/2 loaf leftover or day-old bread such as baguette or ciabatta, torn into small pieces and soaked in milk (no crust, use only the soft part of the bread)
1 T salt
1/2 cup fine dry unseasoned breadcrumbs (the kind you get in a can, not the larger grain panko)

For the sauce:
5 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly smashed, skin on (You can rub it gently to remove the majority of the coarser outside skin, but yes, we're leaving the skin on for this part. Roll with it.)
1 glass dry white wine, preferably Chardonnay
Fresh herbs of your choice, roughly chopped (sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, etc...whatever blend you like)

What You Do
1. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix together the ground meat, grated cheeses, egg, milk-soaked bread, and salt and pepper. This is your chance to show off your He-Man strength! Mix it powerfully (excellent forearm workout) until it's completely smooth and all the ingredients are blended to uniformity. Set aside for about half an hour to let it rest.

2. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, making sure to roll them firmly in your hands until they are compact balls slightly smaller than a golf ball with no cracks, gaps, or lines. Roll them in the breadcrumbs just until they're lightly coated.

3. In the meantime, in a large shallow frying pan over low heat, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until it starts to become golden. Raise the heat to medium-high and begin adding the meatballs. Make sure not to crowd the pan too much, else they'll steam instead of brown. Fry until they're nicely browned outside but still a bit undercooked on the inside. If you have to work in batches it's okay, just add all the meatballs back into the pan before you proceed to the next step.

4. Now add the wine (whatever you haven't drank, natch) and fresh herbs and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the majority of the wine has evaporated. During this time the meatballs will cook all the way through, but make sure to turn them once or twice (or just shake the pan violently, like I do, because I'm lazy) so they get nicely coated with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Posted on April 16, 2015 .