Tag Archives: Minced meat

HOW TO MAKE A POLPETTONE (in Sicilian Purpittuni – a meat loaf)

My relatives say that in Sicily even dogs eat pasta every day. And they do.

This is one of those dishes that doubles up as a first course and second course – use the sauce to dress the pasta (first course) and then slice the polpettone and eat it as the second course. Simple!

Polpettone 2

 

This meatloaf has the same stuffing in the centre, as one would do when making a farsumagru (a large, thinly pounded steak of young beef, rolled around a stuffing, and very Sicilian).

Most Sicilians cannot contemplate a main meal that does not begin with un primo – a first course. Whether eating at home or in a restaurant, Sicilians always start with some form of pasta. It is often the principal and obligatory highlight of the meal. Sometimes Sicilians may consider a soup (minestra or brodo) or a risotto as an alternative, but generally soup is more common in the evenings – and even this is likely to contain pasta.

Marisa prepares to shape the roll

In the north of Italy, a primo is just as important, but the selection of primi will also include more soups, risotti (for those who do not know, this is the plural of risotto), gnocchi (not only those made with potato) and polenta.

Marisa shapes the roll 1

The peas are optional and they can be added about 20minutes before the dish is cooked. Pasta shape of your choice – I like rigatoni for this dish.

INGREDIENTS
minced beef, 800g
eggs, 2
hard boiled eggs, 2-3
fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread, crusts removed)
grated pecorino cheese, a small handful
salt and pepper
parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, cut very finely
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
red wine, 1 cup (optional)
passata, 1 bottle (or tomato paste and water or tinned tomato)
garlic, 1-2 large cloves, chopped finely
basil fresh leaves (and/or oregano)
onion, 1 cut very finely
ham, 4 slices, thinly sliced
pecorino cheese, 3-4 thinly sliced and broken up into pieces
peas, to taste
PROCESSES
Cook the onion in a little hot extra virgin olive oil, add a little salt and let cool.
Mix the cooled onion into the minced meat, add garlic, grated cheese, raw eggs, bread, parsley, salt and pepper together. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until they are well combined – they should feel sticky.
Spread the meat on a piece of baking paper (the older Sicilians probably would have used a marble slab).
Place ham slices lengthwise and in the centre of the mince.
Peel the hard boiled eggs and you may wish, (if you remember to do it) to cut off a little of the white at both ends so that when you line the eggs up they will fit into one another and form a continuous line – this is done so that when you slice the polpettone each serving will have some egg.
Shape the polpettone into a long oval shape enveloping all of the stuffing. The paper will prevent the meat from sticking and will make it easier to slide into the pan. Wet hands will also help to shape it. Make sure that there is sufficient meat around the eggs – this is the frail part of the polpettone. If it is going to crack during cooking this will be it.

Heat some extra virgin olive oil and seal the meat from all sides (carefully).
Add the wine, allow it to evaporate a little, add the passata, a little water, herbs and more seasoning.
Braise over low heat for about 35- 45 minutes. To prevent breakage, turn the polpettone only once during cooking. If necessary, add more water during cooking. It should kept moist while it cooks and you can always evaporate the juice at the end, if you wish to intensify the flavour.
Add peas if you wish about 2o minutes beforehand.
And there is nothing worse than a watery sauce. (Take out the meatloaf, reduce the sauce, add the meatloaf to the reduced sauce again to warm!)

For a different photo of Polpettone see: POLPETTONE (in Sicilian purpittuni – a meat loaf on platter by Giacomo Alessi of Caltagirone)

CARCIOFI FARCITI (Stuffed artichokes: with meat and with olives and anchovies)

Stuffed artichokes, I can’t get enough of them.

Carciofi  are artichokes; farciti, imbottiti and ripieni all mean STUFFED in Italian.

If you are invited at my place for dinner during artichoke season it is very likely that one of the courses will be stuffed artichokes.

I braise stuffed artichokes in stock and white wine and all the stuffings  have a proportion of breadcrumbs (1- 2day old good quality bread).

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There are two  other recipes on other posts for stuffed artichokes:

Two lots of friends last week, two lots of artichokes and two more recipes. Although I braised the artichokes in stock and white wine, tomato pulp (canned or passata) are an option and would compliment the flavours of the following stuffings.

The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes. Sometimes I have found that they take 40 minutes and at other times almost double the time. To test if the artichokes are cooked, pull on one of the outside leaves – it should detach easily.

There may or may not have a fuzzy choke, depending on the maturity of the plant. If there is, remove it with a teaspoon, carefully turning it without snapping the sides of the vegetable.

 

STUFFED WITH MINCE MEAT

2 medium – large artichokes
stock/ white wine/water/tomato pulp
bay leaves
 
Stuffing:
1 egg
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup of good quality lean ground beef
1tbs parsley, cut finely
1 garlic clove, chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for the stuffing and ½ cup to cook the artichokes
½ cup pine nuts
ground nutmeg; I also added a bit of cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the stuffing: Place all of the ingredients together in a bowl and combine them with your fingers. The mixture is the same as when making meatballs.
 

Clean the artichokes, see: CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking).

Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery). Keep the artichokes and the stem in acidulated water (water and lemon or water and a little white vinegar) until ready to stuff.
Drain the artichokes, remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and cut off the top. Use your fingers to spread out the leaves; the stuffing will go mainly in the centre of the artichoke. Sprinkle a little salt between the leaves.
Stuff the centre of the artichokes – I use my fingers; press the stuffing firmly into the centre.
Pour the rest of the olive oil in a pan and heat it. 
Place the artichokes upside down into the hot oil – this will brown the meat stuffing.
Turn the artichokes the right way up i.e. standing upright so that they can cook in an upright position (choose your pan carefully).
Add braising liquid. The level of the braising liquid should be about 1 cm below the top of the artichokes. Add a little salt to the braising liquid.
Cover and cook artichokes over low-medium heat for about 50- 80 mins. The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes.

 

VARIATION

Peas can be added during the braising – add these about 20 minutes before the cooking is finished.

photo

STUFFED WITH BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES AND A CUBE OF CHEESE

Cheese: I used pecorino fresco but a sharper cheese like provolone or mature pecorino or parmigiano would also be suitable.

Artichokes with olives, parsley & cheese 2

2 medium – large artichokes
stock/ white wine/water/tomato pulp
2 cubes of cheese
 

 (In  the photo above, the artichokes are ready to be cooked.)

Stuffing

1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbs of one herb: parsley or fresh oregano or mint, cut finely
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for the stuffing and ½ cup to cook the artichokes
½ cup stoned black olives
¼ cup chopped anchovies

 

Prepare the stuffing: Place the breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs and the drizzle of oil in a bowl. Combine them with your fingers. Add the olives and anchovies and mix them through lightly. (I do not use extra salt – I find that the salt in the olives, anchovies and cheese is sufficient.)
 

Clean the artichokes, see: CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking)

Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery). Keep the artichokes and the stem in acidulated water (water and lemon or water and a little white vinegar) until ready to stuff.
There may or may not have a fuzzy choke, depending on the maturity of the plant. If there is, remove it with a teaspoon, carefully turning it without snapping the sides of the choke.
Drain the artichokes, remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and cut off the top. Use your fingers to spread out the leaves; the stuffing will go mainly in the centre of the artichoke. Sprinkle a little salt between the leaves.
Stuff the centre of the artichokes – I use my fingers; press the stuffing firmly into the centre.
Press one cube of cheese into the centre the stuffing so that it is covered.
Place the rest of the oil in the pan and arrange the artichokes standing upright so that they can cook in an upright position (choose your pan carefully).
Add braising liquid. The level of the braising liquid should be about 1 cm below the top of the artichokes. Add a little salt to the braising liquid.
Cover and cook artichokes over low-medium heat for about 50- 70 mins. The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes.
Present with cooking liquid around them.
 
 

 photo

 

 

 

POLPETTONE (in Sicilian purpittuni – a meat loaf on platter by Giacomo Alessi of Caltagirone)

I asked my butcher to mince some very lean beef for me – I was going to have it as steak tartare. I did not get around to using it and made a polpettone (a large meat ball/ loaf, called a purpittuni in Sicilian).

In previous posts I have written about polpette (meatballs) and braciole (meat rolled around a stuffing), and although making a polpettone is very similar to these recipes it gives me an opportunity to get a photo – visuals  are helpful when cooking a recipe.

In this polpettone, I have placed some stuffing in the centre, as one would do when making a farsumagru (a large, thinly pounded steak of young beef, rolled around a stuffing) and this time I have used a few slices of cooked ham, small bits of pecorino and hard-boiled eggs. In Italy, cooked ham is called prosciutto and what we call prosciutto in Australia is known as prosciutto crudo (raw ham).

The older, Sicilian recipes rarely include wine in cooking (vinegar, yes) so the wine is optional.

I need to mention the platter. It is one of Giacomo Alessi’s ceramiche (ceramics, just I case you have not guessed).

I bought my very first in Caltagirone, Sicily’s most important centre for ceramics and where Alessi’s pottery is based. He has since established other outlets; I bought the one in the photo in Erice (central Sicily) last year and I purchased another in Palermo.

I love his ceramics, especially the ones with the bright green border; these are based on traditional and very old designs.

I am attracted to his use of strong colours, the ornamentation and images he uses, so evocative of the past. All my cousins and their offspring have the very old, original platters scattered around their homes (not Alessi’s, but he has reproduced and revived the old designs). They had belonged to Rosa, my paternal grandmother (Ragusa), but unfortunately when they were distributed within the family I was out of sight and out of mind. Apparently, one of the many uses for these platters was to dry conserva (rich tomato paste), which was placed to dry in the hot, Sicilian sun.

For the recipe complete with photos, see

HOW TO MAKE A POLPETTONE (in Sicilian Purpittuni or

Purpittuni)

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MEAT BALLS or POLPETTE (PURPETTI CU’ SUCU, Sicilian)

I love the Italian language – polpettine, polpette, polpettone, much better than small meatballs, meatballs and meatloaf. (Polpette from polpa, meaning flesh). The Sicilian word for meatballs is purpetti, and even better.

I had bought some beef mince (my butcher selects the meat, shows it to me and then puts it through his mincing machine in front of me – no additives, no preservatives) and I was going to use it to make a fausu magro – a large braciola stuffed with hard boiled egg, mortadella and cheese and braised in tomato passata).

Usually this dish is made with a large slice of beef topside, (a lean cut of beef I buy in Australia) but some Sicilians use mince and I wanted to see what amount of stuffing the mince would tolerate without falling apart in the cooking.  My mother used to cook a large unstuffed meatloaf which was partly based on the cuisine from Trieste where we lived. She called it a polpettone (Italian name for meatloaf) and rightly so because sometimes she braised or baked it using a little white wine and some stock for moisture rather than using tomatoes.

Then a friend arrived unexpectedly from interstate and I had no time to prepare the fausu magru so I made large meatballs instead. It only took about 15 minutes to make the meatballs – they were great.

If you look at recipes for making meatballs, they are always sealed (sautéed in hot extra virgin olive oil) before the braising liquid is added (passata or tomato paste and water) but not this time. A Sicilian friend of my mother’s once told her that where she came from (Agrigento) meatballs were dropped unsealed in the hot tomato based sauce – this results in a much lighter dish. The other thing I did was to add cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to the braising liquid.

As a teenager I had a friend who was from Calabria and her mother would always add sultanas to her polpette. For a short time I also lived next door to a family from Naples. The signora added sultanas and cinnamon to her mixture – my mother was even more horrified about this – obviously this was not part of the Sicilian cuisine that my grandmother knew (my grandmother was born in Catania, on the east coast of Sicily). Both the Calabrese and Napoletana women seemed to add a large proportion of bread to their mixture, much more than I was used to in my mother’s kitchen.

I have checked my many resources and there are Sicilian recipes that list ground cinnamon, dried grapes (currants or raisins or sultanas) and pine nuts in the meatball mixture, as well as the usual ingredients used to make meatballs all over Italy: breadcrumbs (usually soaked in water or milk beforehand and squeezed dry), grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino, depending which part of Italy you come from), salt, pepper, nutmeg, raw egg and a little chopped parsley.

I even found a version in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi Di Sicilia which lists amaretti biscuits, whole pine nuts and ground pistachio nuts, cinnamon and sultanas as part of the meatball mixture (I can see more meatballs coming!)

Meatballs, of course, were eaten throughout Italy way back in time, and in many other parts of the world, too (maybe not always shaped like a ball) – think of the Greek (sometimes with powdered cloves) and the Middle Eastern lamb variations with coriander and cumin; Swedish meatballs with a cream gravy (tomato-less and much like my mother’s version of polpettone); Vietnemese meatballs with pork mince, water chestnuts and fish sauce; or the Chinese lion head and the oversized pork meatballs from Shanghai cooked in a clay pot. (I could go on, but it is not appropriate for a blog.)

INGREDIENTS

minced beef, 600g
eggs, 2
fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread, crusts removed)
cinnamon sticks, 2
grated pecorino cheese, a small handful
salt and pepper
nutmeg, grated, a pinch
parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, sliced finely
bay leaves, 2-3
sun dried sultanas, a small handful
pine nuts, a small handful
extra virgin olive oil, a good splash
passata, 1-2 bottles( or tomato paste and water or tinned tomato)
garlic, 1-2 large cloves, whole
oregano, dried, a pinch

 

PROCESSES

Mix minced meat, cheese, eggs, bread, parsley, salt and pepper and nutmeg together, add pine nuts and sultanas and shape into balls (mine were large- tennis ball size – I was in a hurry).
Place passata, oil and garlic, a little salt and pepper, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and oregano (or fresh basil which I try to do without in winter) in a pan and bring to the boil.
Drop the balls in gently, turn down the heat and do not stir or turn them over for at least 10 minutes (prevent breakage). I like to have the meatballs completely covered with liquid.
Poach them on low heat until cooked (approx. 30mins).

They smell good too and unsurprisingly, the sauce can be used to dress the pasta, the meatballs are presented as second course.

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