Food /
Italian Recipes

Polpette: Beef Meatballs


I ate something like these at Alla Vedova, a cicchetteria in front of ca d’Oro vaporetto stop. They were just fantastic. Everyone was having them with a glass of prosecco or vino before dinner. If you then carry on, as I did, with all the other cicchetti & more wine – you can call it a day & not need dinner.  

These meatballs can be cooked in a frying pan or deep fryer – where they will keep their shape better, but it doesn’t really matter at all.

If you like, you can make smaller ones. I like them large because they fit in a frying pan in one batch & aren’t hard to turn.

You can also make these with part-boiled, mashed or finely chopped beef & some minced pork, so if you have some leftover boiled meats use them. This recipe makes simple, plain polpette, you could always spice them up a bit with some chilli or any other herbs.

(Makes 12-14)


  • 450 g (1 lb) floury potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 250 g (9 oz) minced beef
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • dry breadcrumbs
  • olive oil, for frying



  1. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until just soft. Drain, then mash until fluffy. Crush the garlic on a board, removing any green inner part, or in a mortar with a little salt to a pulp. Add to the potato & mash in while still warm. Add in the raw minced beef & a little salt & mash again, first with a masher & then with a fork if necessary to ensure there are no lumps.
  2. When the potato has cooled down a little, add the parsley, parmesan & egg & mix well, tasting a smidgen for any salt, pepper or anything else you think would be good. Put in the fridge for an hour (longer, if you prefer) until they firm up.
  3. Grab enormous heaped teaspoonfuls of the mix, rolling them firmly between your palms so you have big balls of about 5 cm (2 inch) diameter. Put the breadcrumbs on a plate.
  4. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to come a couple of cm up the sides. 
  5. While the oil is heating, roll the balls in the breadcrumbs so they are totally covered. Gently put the balls into the hot oil. Fry them without moving until the undersides have a beautiful golden crust, then turn them with tongs or a spoon, taking care not to pierce them. Fry until golden & crisp, then drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt & serve when they have cooled down just a little (they are also good at room temperature).

Photographer Manos Chatzikonstantis