Resourceful cooks are ever-vigilant about kitchen waste. Stale bread? There’s a use for that. Polpette casce e ovo is one of them.
Essentially a dish of meatless meatballs made from stale bread, eggs and cheese, and cooked in a fresh tomato sauce, this peasant plate has its origins in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy, where it sufficed as a second course, when meat wasn’t available; these days, you’re more apt to see it served as an antipasto offering.
There are a few ways to make this dish.
Some cooks soak the stale bread in water for a few minutes and then squeeze it dry before combining it into a mash with the eggs and cheese, then shaping the mixture into balls. Some opt not to use the crust of the bread.
The recipe below, from the newly released “Food of the Italian South” by Katie Parla (Clarkson Potter, $30), calls for cooking the meatballs directly in the fresh tomato sauce. Another option is to fry the balls first in a little olive oil, to give them some browning, and then add them to the sauce. No matter which way you go, let these dumpling-esque balls simmer in the sauce until they are plump, spongy and tender. The recipe calls for a 15-minute heat treatment. I had better results when I let them sit in the pan for nearly half an hour.
Finally, you can amp up the flavor profile of the sauce with fresh garlic, diced bell pepper or parsley. Check your pantry to see what needs using up. This is a cupboard dinner, after all.
And, if you find yourself richly overstocked with these ingredients, make extra. This poor man’s recipe is easily doubled.
Reprinted from “Food of the Italian South.” Copyright © 2019 by Katie Parla. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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