Saturday, July 19, 2014

Polpette di Pane (Balls of Bread)

Got stale bread? Please don't throw it away . . . 

My husband bakes a batch of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe at least once a week. While we usually consume most of it, we are sometimes left with those odds and ends pieces that end up getting stale. I grind those up in my food processor and save them in a canister in my pantry. Homemade bread crumbs are SO much better then store bought - hands down!

You may recall that our daughter is currently in Santiago, Chile, visiting her Aunt Nadia and her Nonna. We've been Skyping with them frequently, and of course, we always have to know what Nonna is preparing them for dinner. The other day, Nonna prepared one of Nadia's favorites, Polpette di Pane.

She's made them for us in the past as well.  It has been so long since I've made them - years in fact! I knew I had her recipe in my recipe box, so I decided to dig it out, put those homemade bread crumbs to use, and give them a try again. I say "give them a try", because if I recall, she was with me, guiding me along the last time I prepared them.

I found the recipe, and you will understand what I mean when I say "try" once you read what she had written down for me.  Here goes (I've translated from Italian to English for you):

Bread Crumbs
2-3 eggs

THAT'S IT . . . that's all she wrote! This is how ALL of her recipes are. No measurements, no instructions, just a list of ingredients. And when I ask her, "Mamma, how much milk?" or "how much pecorino" . . . her answer is always "as much as it takes!"  Yup - there you have it, "as much as it takes." I did my best here, to show you my interpretation of "as much as it takes". First I'll show you how, and then the recipe WITH the measurements that I used.

Place your bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add the milk, give it a stir and let it sit for 5 minutes to absorb the milk. Add the Pecorino-Romano cheese, garlic, parsley, salt & pepper, and the eggs (slightly beaten). Get in there with your hands, and mix well.

Take a handful of the bread mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball, form it into a ball, and then flatten it slightly into a patty. Repeat until all of the bread mixture has been formed into patties. Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a pan and fry patties until golden brown (2-3 minutes per side). Set aside on a paper-towel lined sheet pan.

Here, you can use your favorite red sauce. I decided to make a simple sauce to go with our polpette. I just sauteed some chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes; Added 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic and sauteed for an additonal minute. Added some tomato sauce and fresh chopped basil and simmered for 15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Add the fried polpette to the sauce and let simmer until the polpette has a chance to soak up some of the sauce, and are heated through.

Polpette di Pane (Balls of Bread)

  • 12 ounces of homemade bread crumbs (I highly recommend using homemade bread crumbs, made from an artisan bread)
  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 Tbls of fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 3 extra large eggs, slightly beaten
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano® (if desired)
  1. Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of milk and mix lightly with a fork. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the milk.
  2. Add the Pecorino-Romano cheese and mix with a fork to combined.
  3. Add crushed garlic, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and mix to combined.
  4. Add beaten eggs. At this point, you will want to get your hands in there and mix it with your hands. The mixture should be moist and slightly sticky. If you need more moisture, add more milk, 1/4 cup at a time to achieve the right consistency.
  5. Take a handful of the mixture and form it into a ball, slightly larger than a golf ball. Flatten slightly into a patty. Repeat until all of the mixture has been formed into patties.
  6. Heat about 1/2" of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Fry patties in batches, 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove patties from oil to a paper-towel lined baking sheet.
  7. Heat your favorite red sauce in a large pan until hot. Add the polpette, making sure that the patties are covered in sauce. Bring to a simmer and let them cook on low until the polpette have had a chance to soak up some of the sauce and are heated through (about 15 minutes).
  8. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano® cheese (if desired).

Have you ever had polpette di pane? If you haven't, I encourage you to give them a try. I hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

Buon Appetito!


  1. The dish looks so tempting, I must say! Home made bread crumbs are really good and obviously better for your health. Thank you for sharing lots of pictures and the recipe.

  2. Who cooks more in your family? You or your husband? I really love these astonishing ideas for lovely and healthy dishes.

  3. These balls are something new and incredibly tasty, I want to thank you for sharing such a simple and incredibly successful recipe that I prepared.