Emperor Polpettine


Sorry. I couldn’t get around the title. When my kids came home from school yesterday, and asked their customary question what’s for dinner, and I answered polpettine, they looked at each other wide-eyed, and almost simultaneously and smirkingly asked if we were having Emperor Palpatine for dinner. And thus began a long string of corny, nay ridiculous jokes that ended with more than one groan from the maternal kitchen gallery.

Where were we? Oh, right. Polpettine, as in, tiny meatballs. I saw Mario Batalli make these on Food Network about 8 or so years ago. They’ve been my go-to recipe for meatballs ever since. I prefer them small — a giant single meatball sitting atop a pile of pasta and sauce has never been very appealing to me. They are also the perfect recipe to double (or triple) and make large quantities at once — I mean, once your hands are dirtied up with raw beef and pork, you might as well sit there a while and do the work for more than one dinner. I make them up, lay them out on a lined baking sheet, and stick them in the freezer. Once frozen solid, I transfer them to ziplock bags, ready to dispense as many as I need to make a quick(ish) dinner.


These are classic Italian meatballs — I typically use a combination of beef & pork, but have used veal as well when I’ve had it. Very simply seasoned — primarily garlic — and tossed in a homemade marinara (my favorite recipe is below). Historically served atop a pile of pasta, these days I’m opting for strings of spaghetti squash (for obvious reasons) and am surprisingly enjoying the change.

So try them, and see if they don’t find a place in your dinner rotation (with or without a side of jokes about the ruler of the Galactic Empire).


Recipe: Polpettine (tiny meatballs)

: inspired by this recipe from Mario Batali
makes about 60 1 1/2″ meatballs


  • 1 pound ground beef (grassfed if possible)
  • 1 pound ground pork or veal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 quarts marinara sauce (recipe below)


  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork (or veal), eggs, garlic, flour, parmesan, and salt & pepper. Using your hands, mix quickly and thoroughly to combine and distribute seasoning.
  2. Roll into balls 1″ – 1 1/2″ in diameter, according to preference. (At this point, meatballs can be place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and frozen for future use. Transfer to a freezer zip bag once frozen. When ready to use, thaw completely before proceeding with recipe.)
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil or rendered pork fat over medium heat until shimmering. Add meatballs in a single layer. Cook without disturbing for about 3 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Gently turn meatballs, continuing to cook, until brown on all sides.
  4. Pour marinara sauce over meatballs, and allow to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Number of servings (yield): 6


Recipe: Marinara Sauce

: makes 2 quarts sauce


  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 (28-oz) cans diced or crushed tomatoes
  • dried bay leaf
  • sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  1. In a large saute pan or dutch oven set over medium heat, saute onions, celery, and carrot until soft — about 5-8 minutes (do not brown). Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  2. Add tomatoes and bay leaf to pan, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer gently for 45 minutes (don’t rush this!).
  4. Using a hand-held stick blender, puree the sauce in the pot. Alternatively transfer to a blender or food processor and puree.
  5. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.


This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.




I’m totally not supposed to be eating these.


See how fun this will be? My blog will become a confessional booth, wherein I ask you to absolve all of my lapses. Perhaps my penance will involve re-scribing, by hand, the sidebar notes from Nourishing Traditions.

All in all, relatively, yesterday’s backslide was not a bad one. I am supposed to be avoiding starches — any and all starchy fruits and vegetables — and these somewhat-greenish plantains were definitely still starchy. But I only ate four five of them. Cross my heart, hope to die.

Confessions aside, I don’t know how I’ve not posted about plantains before. They were my side-dish-of-choice at our favorite Cuban/SoAmerican/BeautifullyBizarro restaurant in Athens. Plantains are a firmer, starchier relative of the banana, and unlike their cousin “dessert bananas,” are usually eaten cooked. I prefer them very ripe (almost totally black skin), quartered and fried in butter and coconut oil, served as maduros, as a side to black bean dishes. But the fresh plantains I picked up on Monday were not fully ripe yesterday, and greener plantains are better suited to double-frying, served as tostones.

(By the way, it seems that preferring my plantains sweet is a very American, gauche thing in the eyes of the plantain purist. Oh well, having already revealed my true nature, this is the least of my worries.)


Turns out, even with double-frying, tostones are pretty easy (though pent-up frustration is helpful during the smashing step, and a candy thermometer is handy as well). They are just the thing to take a plain Central- or South-American inspired meal (a.k.a., in my house, Brazilian Black Beans) from ho-hum to interesting. Or, as my 8-year old likes to say, fancy.

Or even better still, diet-breaking.


Recipe: Tostones (fried green plantains)

(adapted from this recipe at 3 Guys From Miami)

serves 4 as a side


  • 2 plantains, a bit “green” (mine were yellow and brown, and still quite firm)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) refined coconut oil
  • sea salt


  1. Trim the ends of the plantains, and score skin lengthwise with a knife in 3-4 places. Peel off sections of skin — this is more difficult the greener the fruit.
  2. Chop plantains crosswise into 1-inch chunks.
  3. In a cast-iron skillet or dutch oven, add an inch of coconut oil and heat to 300º on a candy thermometer (this is quite hot, but not smoking). Add chunks in a single layer, and cook for 2 minutes without stirring.
  4. Flip chunks (they can stick a bit) and cook another 2 minutes (do not allow them to brown). Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  5. Place each chunk on a flat end. Cover with a small piece of parchment or wax paper, and using the end of a glass. smash each piece so that it’s about 1/2″ thick.
  6. Increase heat of oil to about 375º. Add flattened pieces to hot oil, frying for about a minute on each side, or until golden brown. Remove to a fresh paper towel-lined plate.
  7. Salt immediately & generously (this is best done when plantains are still damp from the cooking oil).
  8. Serve immediately, these do not keep well.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.