Such was the praise for Aldo D’Amico’s polpette. I smiled because these splendid morsels are typical Pugliese resourcefulness. Italians tend to buy their bread on a daily basis. The bread tastes delicious one day one, and definitely less tender day two. By day three, you sincerely hope you’ve finished the loaf. However, old bread does happen! Then the question is: what do you do with it? Feed the chickens, I suppose… but who has that option these days?
Much tastier to transform that old, dry bread into a perfect finger food. That’s right, the secret ingredient is bread! Aldo’s polpette (poll-pet’-tay) don’t contain any meat, although the translation for a meatball is also polpette.
Here’s the basic recipe:
- 1 lb of old bread (ciabatta, filone, country bread… a bread with good structure)
- 4 eggs
- 5 oz grated pecorino cheese (nice if you can find an aged one)
- 6 springs of parsley, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 sprigs of mint, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
Soften the bread with water and then wring out the liquid. Crushing the bread in your hands, let it fall into a 2 quart sized bowl. Add the eggs and knead the dough. Toss in the remaining ingredients and mix with a large spoon. Let it rest for ten minutes. Tip the bowl slightly; does it slowly roll down the sides or does it stick fairly firmly to the sides of the bowl?
If you would like soft and lighter balls, you would like the dough to slowly roll. For firmer balls, a less liquid dough works fine. Add water, if necessary and taste the dough for seasoning.
Scoop up a generous tablespoon of dough with the large metal spoon. With a soup spoon, ladle the dough from one spoon to the other. Pop them into a pot of hot olive oil and until light brown (approximately 4 minutes) on one side. Flip them over as they continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Delicious hot or room temperature, what a wonderful reincarnation of old bread!