Purpettipolpette in Italianare the words for meatballs, but these purpetti are made with fish
Polpette di sarde are made with sardines and are very popular in Sicily, however other types of fish can be used. In my version of fish balls I have used a combination of snapper and flathead (sustainable in Victoria), but any firm skinless, non-oily fish is OK. You will need a meat grinder or a food processor to mince the fish.
Polpette made with fish can be made with as many combinations of flavours and particularly common around Catania is the combination of grated pecorino, garlic and parsley – the same as for making meat balls. I like to add grated lemon zest and cinnamon as well. The polpette can be fried and served plain with a squeeze of lemon or poached in a tomato salsa as I have done on this occasion.

I presented them to friends simply served with bread and accompanied with some roast peppers and a green leaf mixed salad with radishes – perfect for a light lunch.

This recipe is in my second book, Small Fishy Bites.


fish, 500g, see above
grated pecorino cheese, ½ cup
currants, ½ cup
pine nuts, ½ cup
parsley or fresh mint, ½ cup cut finely
garlic, 2 cloves, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
cinnamon powder and lemon zest, ½ teaspoon of each
egg, 1 
breadcrumbs,1 cup, made from fresh bread


Cut the fish into chunks and mince using a meat grinder or food processor – I do not like it to be too fine.
Combine all of the ingredients – the mixture should be quite firm and hold their shape. Shape into small balls.
For the tomato sauce:
In a saucepan large enough to hold the polpette, heat ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, add a clove of garlic, a little salt and 500g of chopped and peeled red tomatoes (canned or passata).
Heat the salsa to boiling then lower the heat and reduce to thicken slightly for about 5 minutes. Bring to boiling again.
Add the polpette to the tomato sauce, cover and braise for 8–12 minutes. Leave to rest in the sauce for at least 5 minutes – this will help them to set.
Serve hot.



  1. Marisa, anything with currants and pine nuts and cinnamon and lemon zest must be incredible. You’ve got me salivating. (I haven’t exactly looked hard for currants in Sicily, but I haven’t seen any… I must ask around for these.)

  2. Marisa, I saw your photo of the popetti and knew that this was one to try! They’re delicious and the salsa is luscious. I lightly toasted the pine nuts to bring out their flavour and used both mint and parsley. I also used a mortar and pestle to grind a piece of cinnamon quill with a little coarse salt for a very fresh cinnamon flavour. What a great balance of flavours in this dish! The currants bring a lovely sweet note to the dish as well. Many thanks!!

  3. I am so glad you are spreading such great information about Sicily. I spent a year living near Trapani and it was what inspired me to start my blog. I don’t know how many followers you have, but I love your blog and I have chosen it for the Leibster Blog award. I hope this helps spread the word and send you more traffic and create more followers. I have linked to you from my post:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.