Polpette con Funghi e Zucchini (Meatballs with Mushroom and Zucchini)


raw (Photo credit: ugglan)

Polpette con Funghi e Zucchini

(Meatballs with Mushroom and Zucchini)

(8-10 servings)

Ingredients and kitchen equipment

1 ½ pound champignon or any tasty wild mushrooms

1 clove of garlic reduced into a paste

1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

10-12 small, very fresh zucchini (about 2 ½ pounds)

3 TB finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

dash of butter

freshly ground black pepper


peperoncino (chili, opt.)

3 pounds finely ground beef

1 large egg plus extra eggs for breading the polpette

5-6 oz thick yogurt

flour for breading the polpette

coarse breadcrumbs (ideally home-made) for breading the polpette

enough oil (ideally, extra-virgin olive oil) to fry the polpette in a single layer

2 trays lined with parchment paper

1 non-stick saucepan large enough to hold the zucchini in one single layer

1 large frying pan

1 oven dish


Pour 2 TBs olive oil into the saucepan and gently warm 1/3 of the garlic paste together with a nice pinch of peperoncino. Trim the zucchini (keep the flowers if still attached) and dice them into ¼ inch x  ½ inch pieces. Sautee in the olive oil, garlic and peperoncino until almost done (about 20 minutes), stirring often. Taste for salt. The zucchini must cook without turning into a pulp, so don’t cover them but be careful not to burn them, so sprinkle with water from time to time. When almost ready, you can add the zucchini flowers. When done, add 1/3 of the parsley and set aside.

While the zucchini cook, clean the mushrooms. Ideally, to preserve their full aroma, wild mushrooms should not be rinsed and only dusted or patted clean with a wet sponge. However, sometimes the soil really clings to them: don’t rinse them under current water; instead,  give them a gentle bath in little warm water. If you use champignon mushrooms, discard the base of the stalk and peel the heads. Chop or slice into not-too-small pieces (mushrooms shrink quite a bit when cooked). In the same saucepan you used for cooking the zucchini, gently warm 1/3 garlic paste into 1 TBs olive oil. Toss in the mushrooms, stirring often over a high flame for about 5 minutes; turn the heat down, add 1/3 parsley, cover and finish the cooking (time depends on the variety of mushrooms: anything between 3-4 and 20 minutes). Taste for salt and set aside to cool.

In the same saucepan, make a soffritto with the remaining garlic paste and the chopped onion.

In a large bowl, with the help of your hands mix the ground meat with all the ingredients, also adding freshly-ground black pepper and salt to taste.

In a small bowl, break 2 eggs, add 2 TB water, and beat slightly with a fork. Start making the polpette, which should be about 3-inch long,  1-and- ½-inch wide, and 2/3-inch thick. Dust each polpetta with flour, dump it in the beaten egg, drain well, and coat with breadcrumb. Prepare all the polpette in the same way, arranging them on the trays lined with parchment paper as you go, to prevent them from sticking.

For best results, let the polpette “firm up” for an hour or longer in the refrigerator before frying them.

Warm the oil until fairly hot, and fry the polpette on a single layer (you can use the saucepan which you used for cooking the zucchini)—you’ll probably have to make several batches—until nicely golden and crisp on both sides (about 15 minutes). Transfer the polpette on the oven dish and bake at 100C (200 F) for 40-50 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Polpette keep well in the refrigerator for one day uncooked, and up to 5-6 days cooked. You can warm them up in the oven.


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