Polpette or what to do with leftover meat. . .


I’ll never forget the time I went to a restaurant with Marco and his parents many years ago, early on in our relationship. I didn’t speak Italian well, so, much of the conversation was lost on me. Marco must have told me something about the “delicacy” that they were about to order. I don’t remember those details. . . but I do recall my disgust when I saw the basket of deep-fried whole frogs arrive at our table, lying, piled high, with arms and legs flailing out and their little eyes peering up out of the plate. I took one look and, honestly, got up and left the table for the bathroom!

Italians, and many Europeans, eat diverse varieties of animals that many Americans find offensive. It’s one thing that I still haven’t gotten used to. Marco gnawing on the small bones of the frog’s legs is still something that just creeps me out. I’m a little more used to the times that his mother makes him rabbit and polenta. She cooks me some chicken to eat instead. She doesn’t cook horse meat that often, but I do remember the time I ate it and thought it was cow. (She snuck that one in!) I have come to realize that it isn’t the taste of any of these meats that is the problem. . . the problem is the thought of eating these creatures. I swear, if we thought about any of this too long, we would all become vegetarians!!!

The meat in the plate up there on the right is ground leftover meat. Some of it is from a pork roast with garlic and thyme. Some of it is from chicken piccata (from the Italian word “picchiare“, to pound). We save the leftovers in the freezer until we have enough to make polpette. It’s a great way to use leftovers and one of our favorite comfort food meals!

First, mix the ingredients together:


Then, shape the mixture into balls:


Coat with more breadcrumbs:


Here they are, ready to be pan-fried:


Here they are cooked:


Serve them with your favorite side and some wine:

IMG_7377Ingredients: (It’s difficult to give exact quantities for this, since it depends on how much ground leftover meat that you have. . . so it will be QB or quanto basta “to taste”.

  • ground meat – we do it in the food processor
  • bread crumbs
  • egg(s)
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying


  1. mix all the ingredients together until the texture is right for shaping into balls
  2. coat with bread crumbs
  3. heat oil in frying pan until hot and add the balls to fry until browned (about 2-3 minutes each side)


“Chi troppo, stroppia” or “Too much of a good thing”


In a recent article entitled “7 Things Americans Can Learn From Italians”, Lisa Miller notes several ideas that I have shared in this blog (click to read her article). One of the things that has been on my list is the way Italians enjoy wine without excess. Lisa echoes what I’ve learned from Italian culture. She writes, “Italians love their vino. But they don’t overdo it. Here in America, there’s a culture of binge-drinking. In Italy, a bottle of wine is shared among friends or around the dinner table. Stumbling around drunk in Italy is not viewed favorably. Italians like to drink, but they know how to keep it classy.”

When I began visiting Italy with Marco, I noticed that he and his friends would go out for a night, there would be food, lot’s of talking and laughing. . . and it was common to see one beer consumed per person. I remember commenting to Marco that his friends seemed to “nurse” their beers. If we went for dinner, there would be wine for all, but it was an accompaniment to the food. And, of course, there would be an occasional wild party where margaritas would be poured into the mouth from some contraption. . .

We seem to have a culture of binge drinking that begins with the artificial mandate about waiting till you are 21 to be “legal” to drink. Italians are often encouraged to try wine with their meal in the home. Buying wine in Italy is like buying prosciutto, any 10-year-old can do it. Wine is a part of day-to-day life in a way that does not give it the power we Americans seem to give it. Many begin the binge drinking in high school. Of course this continues in college (still before the “legal” age). And, it continues into adulthood.

I love that in Europe, you can sit in a park and open a bottle of wine to enjoy with a picnic lunch. Here, we do this, but it is often against the law, one has to hide it, and in many ways it is frowned upon. Does this come from our Puritan heritage (especially where I hail from in New England)?  Is it the last vestiges of the prohibition era?

My favorite book on healthy aging, “The Blue Zones”, is a study of several regions around the world where folks live healthy lives well into their 90’s and 100’s. Dan Buettner offers 9 lessons for living longer. Lesson four is “Grapes of Life:  drink red wine (in moderation).” “Epidemiological studies seem to show that people who have a daily drink per day of beer, wine, or spirits may accrue some health benefits. But the secrets of the Blue Zones suggest that consistency and moderation are key.” Buettner further states that the benefits of red wine is what he calls “artery-scrubbing polyphenols that may help fight arteriosclerosis.” He goes on to caution about the health dangers when daily consumption exceeds more than 1-2 glasses.

So, enjoy a glass of artery scrubbing red wine with the gnocchi bolognese above. The photo at the top is a simple combination of the gnocchi recipe (click here) and the bolognese sauce (click here) from past blog posts!! Enjoy it with a nice glass of red wine from the Emilia Romagna region!


Lobster risotto


I can’t believe that I’ve published 36 blog posts and have not yet written about risotto!!! It is definitely a favorite of ours and a staple of the northern Italian cuisine that is Marco’s heritage. Adelina does not make it often and readily admits that she does not cook it well. It is easy to make, but challenging to get the right combination of a rich creamy texture as well as each grain of rice al dente.

For years Marco made it in a large soup pot, but recently learned that it comes out better in a sauce pan. The basic risotto recipe begins with a soffritto of onions and olive oil or butter. The rice is sautéed in this soffritto to coat each kernel with the fat. Then, you add wine and stir the rice until the alcohol burns off. Lastly, ladle in the chicken broth or any other stock until the rice is cooked to the correct consistency. There are many types of risotto that can be made with vegetable, meat, or seafood.  The one below is lobster risotto and it is a special treat!

Here, Marco is preparing the soffritto of onion and olive oil.


Now, add the rice to coat the kernels. We recently discovered carnaroli rice, which can probably be found in specialty stores or online.


There isn’t a photo of ladling the broth, but after that step, add the lobster.


Right towards the end, add the cream. This is not necessary for a risotto, but it does add to the richness and creamy texture!


Voila. . . the finished product.


And. . .I know it’s an Italian dish. . . but the lobster risotto was very nice with a French Sancerre!!



Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. half of a yellow onion, finely chopped
  3. 2 cups carnaroli rice (or arborio)
  4. 1 cup of white wine
  5. 4-5 cups of chicken broth
  6. meat of 1 lobster
  7. 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. parsley to garnish


  1. sauté chopped onions in olive oil until soft, but not brown (8 minutes)
  2. add rice and sauté for additional 5 minutes stirring often
  3. add wine and let it boil off
  4. add 1 ladle of chicken stock and cook the rice slowly
  5. as the chicken stock dries out, add more broth until rice is cooked (about 10-15 minutes)
  6. add one more ladle of broth with the lobster and let simmer until it evaporates
  7. add cream, parsley, salt and pepper

Buon appetito!

Penne alla vodka


We had some tomato sauce in the freezer (I know, I need to post a blog on Adelina’s tomato sauce – – very easy, just shallots, olive oil, tomatoes, and a touch of sugar for acidity) and wanted to do something different with it. Matteo was off skiing so we decided on vodka sauce knowing that he doesn’t like this one. We really didn’t have a good recipe for it so I did a little searching, went with what we already knew about vodka sauce, and created the recipe below.

I always like to see what Mario Batali does, so I found one of his recipes and learned a new ingredient to try . . . nutmeg! It added a nice flavor to the sauce and reminded us a bit of the flavor in Adelina’s lasagne. I also left out the red pepper flakes that are usually in the classic vodka sauce. Marco doesn’t favor hot spices and this emission allowed the subtle flavor of the nutmeg to shine.

The amount of vodka used in the recipe, making sure to let the alcohol burn off in the cooking, and the amount of heavy cream meant that the sauce was the right blend of the sweet with the bitter of the vodka. In truth, Matteo doesn’t like it because the times we made it in the past it was too bitter. . .I’m almost positive he would have loved this one!

So, give it a try! When I note the sauce, it is of course Adelina’s. You can do your own. . . but just don’t tell me if you use a sauce from a jar (ha ha)!!!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 2 cups of tomato sauce
  2. 2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  3. olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup vodka
  5. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  6. pinch of nutmeg
  7. 10 oz. of pasta


  1. while the pasta water is heating and pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce
  2. in a sauté pan, heat olive oil and gently sauté the garlic until golden brown
  3. add the tomato sauce
  4. add the vodka sauce and let gently boil till the alcohol burns off, 3-4 minutes
  5. add the cream and nutmeg
  6. when the pasta is ready, add it to the sauce, adding the used, starchy pasta water to adjust the consistency as needed