Polpette al Brindisi

Every town in Italy has their version of a particular dish and this meatball recipe is no exception. My son, Joe, and I were in this southern Italian town on a working vacation teaching conversational English. Our home base was in the beautiful, white-washed town of Ostuni and each morning we made our way to the train station to travel south to Brindisi, where our students eagerly awaited the “American” teen. One of the dinners we shared with a student and his family served these delicious Polpette al Brindisi (little pork meatballs from Brindisi).

This dish is just one of many (arancine, spinach ricotta fritters, fettunta Toscana), that is enjoyed as Merende (small bites) all throughout Italy. Serve these flavorful meatballs with crusty, chewy rustic bread, to sop up every last drop of the sauce.



  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup soft breadcrumbs, soaked in 3/4 cup milk or water, squeezed dry
  • 3/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 6 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper, several grinds
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs:

  1. Combine the pork, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and garlic in a mixing bowl. Mix in the egg. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil and using about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture, form a flat patty and fry it. My grandmother always did this before she formed all the meatballs to taste for seasoning. Now, taste. This is the time to add a bit more salt and/or pepper if needed.
  3. When you are happy with the seasoning, form the mixture into small ovals about the size of a walnut. Using a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and fry the meatballs over medium-high heat until cooked through. Transfer to a platter and set aside while you prepare the sauce.

To make the sauce:

  1. Add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Add the kale and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, beef stock and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs and simmer until they are heated through.
  2. To serve, spoon sauce in shallow bowls and top with meatballs. Depending on if you wish to serve this dish as small bites (merende), a first course (primi piatti) or a main dish (as my husband prefers because he loves this dish) I will serve 3- 5,  5-7 or a bowl full, respectively.


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