These are not your nonna’s meatballs, OK? I’m way more than bored with those. This recipe is based on the classic cold appetizer, vitello tonnato; veal in tuna sauce which traditionally would use veal scallops. I’ve simply pilfered and deconstructed and then reconstructed the whole idea. For this dish the meatballs are first poached (not fried), and the ingredients while not many, are of the best quality from the veal, to the oil packed anchovies, to the capers and the sage. —pierino
eggs (in total)
cup extra virgin olive oil
120gm (or equivalent) can of top quality oil packed tuna
really good oil packed anchovies (lest I be forced to remind you, pizza anchovies are diabolical and don’t belong in your kitchen unless you worship the devil)
White wine vinegar
cup torn up bread, without crusts
Fresh garden sage
lean ground veal (please do grind it yourself, please)
Sea salt and ground pepper (black, white or green)
Begin by making the tonnato sauce, it will make things easier if you do this first. In the bowl of a small food processor add two eggs---reserving two eggs for the polpette, and begin to process as if you were making mayonnaise (actually you are) by gradually drizzling in up to half or more of the olive oil with the motor running. When it’s mayonnaise stop and add the tuna and the anchovies and just a small splash of vinegar. Pulse it until smooth and creamy.
Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve such as a tamis. Set aside in a large bowl.
For the meat balls; tear up the bread and sprinkle with cold water and white vinegar just to soften it up.
Chop the sage rather finely. There are tools for that; either a very sharp knife or even better a mezzaluna.
Mince the shallots
In a large bowl, one in which you can fit both of your hands, combine the meat, the eggs, shallots and the sage. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the bread and work that into the meat mixture with your scrubbed hands. Sea salt here would be good. Ground pepper too.
Get a pot of water boiling, add salt and reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile (the dreaded meanwhile), form veal mixture into small, very small meatballs. Like the size of a ping pong ball.
Add just a splash of vinegar to the simmering water. Working just one or two at a time at the beginning add your meatballs to the poaching liquid. Keep the heat at a steady simmer. After about 15 minutes spoon one out and check for doneness. They must be cooked all of the way through. When they are done scoop out onto a sheet pan to rest for a minute or so.
Now the capers. You’ve purchased really top notch salt packed capers, right? Okay, well allow those to soak in cold water. When you get ready to plate things up, carefully drain off the water using your hands or a strainer. The capers are there to finish the plate.
Now, onto each appetizer plate ladle a little sauce, scatter a few capers and add your chilled meatballs. E voila!
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.