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Spaghetti con polpette

Gourmet TV with Emma Knowles

By Eugenio Maiale
  • Serves 6
  • 45 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 25 mins cooking plus soaking, cooling
Spaghetti con polpette
Spaghetti con polpette

"Most Italian families have their own special recipe for polpette di carne - meatballs - and salsa al pomodoro, a basic tomato sauce. Over the years these recipes have merged to become part of a priceless Sunday gathering of families."


  • 500 gm dried spaghetti
Salsa al pomodoro
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) tomato passata
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 10 basil leaves, torn
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ slices crustless white Italian bread (about 80gm), coarsely torn
  • 100 ml milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 slices mild pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 75 ml dry white wine
  • 150 gm each minced pork, minced veal and minced chicken thigh
  • 1½ cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley
  • 25 gm each finely grated parmesan and pecorino, plus extra to serve
  • ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg


  • 1
    For salsa al pomodoro, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and chilli, cook until garlic starts to colour (1-2 minutes). Add passata, stock and basil, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, add oregano, simmer until thick (45 minutes-1 hour). Remove from heat, add extra-virgin olive oil and season to taste.
  • 2
    For polpette, combine bread and milk in a bowl, set aside until bread softens (5 minutes). Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan over low heat, add onion and garlic, stir occasionally until tender (7-10 minutes). Add pancetta, anchovy and rosemary, cook until anchovy dissolves and pancetta is tender (8-10 minutes). Deglaze with wine, cook until liquid evaporates (3-5 minutes), set aside to cool in a large bowl (discard rosemary sprig). Squeeze excess milk from bread (discard milk), add to onion mixture with pork, veal, chicken, parsley, cheeses and nutmeg, stir to combine, season to taste and roll into walnut-sized balls. Cover and refrigerate until required.
  • 3
    Preheat oven to 160C. Place polpette in a baking dish to fit snugly. Pour over salsa al pomodoro, cover with foil, bake until polpette are cooked through (35-45 minutes).
  • 4
    Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente (8-10 minutes). Drain, toss through polpette and sauce, season to taste and serve hot with grated parmesan and pecorino.
  • Author: Eugenio Maiale