Polpette is the Italian name given to any small meatball or rissole. A version made either with minced meat or without is often used as an anti-pasti dish in Puglia, but you can also heat cooked ones with tomato sauce and serve either with or without spaghetti. The eggy-bready mixture is also great for stuffing aubergines and courgettes along with the fried hollowed out flesh of both; while stuffed small artichokes which are then baked in a small amount of brodo are to die for.
For the vegetarian version, soak some stale bread in either milk or water until soft. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can (I use my potato ricer as I’m a bit weedy). Put some olive oil on to heat because you’ll be deep-frying soon. Add a handful of cheese (something strong like Parmesan), some flat-leaf parsley, grated or pressed garlic and seasoning (you can also add capers or fried aubergine and courgettes). Then add beaten egg (add one at a time, mix throughly until you get a nice stiff consistency, which you can shape into balls using a dessert spoon. Drop the polpette into the fryer when it’s really hot and remove onto kitchen towel when suitably golden in colour. Can be eaten warm or cold.
For the meaty version soak bread as before but place in a bowl with minced beef or pork after you’ve squeezed the moisture out. Add garlic, parsley and mortadella if you fancy, Parmesan, nutmeg and seasoning. Beat eggs and add slowly as before and make into ball shapes. Lightly coat with flour and any remaining beaten egg. Dredge each polpette in fine breadcrumbs and chill in the fridge for an hour. Fry gently on each side in butter and oil until browned then cook with tomato sauce for around 10 minutes (or deep fry them if you are going to eat them on their own as anti-pasti).