Sunday, December 28, 2008

Polpettone or the Giant Meatball

Somehow all the decorating got done, all the presents got wrapped, all the cookies got baked and Christmas happened in all its magical glory. This truly is my favorite holiday and even though I’ve had a wicked bad cold, we had a lovely Christmas day.

Every year we cook Christmas dinner for whomever in our combined families can make it to our house. This year we had 16, which is actually a smaller crew than usual. Christmas dinner is the Kitchen Genius’s chance to shine. He’s in charge of the kitchen, and I’m just the prep helper.

We also had other help. My sister-in-law Gini brought some great appetizers made with Pillsbury pastry sheets. She filled one with chicken, artichokes and garlic mayo and the other with mushrooms and cheese. They were very tasty. Her daughter Sarah brought her famous hot clam dip.

The thing about holiday menus is most people like to have the same things every year. We tried tinkering with the menu some but no matter what we wanted to change, it seemed it was someone’s favorite. So once again we had shrimp cocktail, prime rib, cheesy potatoes and a tossed salad.

Since my husband is half Italian, we always have a pasta dish, usually with a side of meatballs. This year the Kitchen Genius made Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach using a recipe he found in the January issue of Gourmet magazine that focuses on Italian American food. The lasagna was three inches deep of pure yum.

Instead of regular meatballs, I decided to try to make Polpettone, or as it is more commonly known in KG’s family: “the giant meatball.” I heard about this dish for years before I ever actually tasted it. It was served at all major holidays in the Bruno/Higgins home and inspired some pretty fond memories.

The only thing I knew about the giant meatball was that it was stuffed with hard boiled eggs, salami and cheese and cooked in sauce. When I asked Gini about it, she gave me their grandmother’s recipe. The recipe was kind of vague on directions. I made it once years ago and it just didn’t come out the way we hoped.

This time I was determined to master the recipe. I found some photos online so I would know what exactly it was supposed to look like and just like that, it all made sense. You know what they say about a picture…

First you make the meatball recipe and flatten it into a rectangle on a sheet of plastic wrap. Then add a layer of salami, mozzarella cheese and sliced hard boiled eggs.

Roll it up like a jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal them.

Next you’re supposed to fry it, but I decided baking it would be easier since I made two.

After I baked them for 45 minutes, I slipped them into a pot of hot tomato sauce and simmered them for another hour.

The presentation was beautiful and it was a huge hit! My father-in-law was especially pleased and it was wonderful to revive a family tradition that I now hope to pass on to my kids.

For dessert, Gini brought brie topped with cherries, pecans and honey and wrapped in pastry and baked. Isn’t it beautiful? It tasted just as good as it looks.

I hope your Christmas was as full of good memories as mine…

The Recipe:

Polpettone (Giant Meatball)

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon parsley
1 egg
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 slices of fresh bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 slices salami
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Mix beef, pork, parsley, egg, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper well. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and press the meat mixture into a rectangle on it. Top with salami slices, overlapping slightly and leaving the edges free. Sprinkle cheese on top of the center. Arrange two rows of egg slices on top.

Lift the edge of the plastic wrap and roll the loaf like a jellyroll. Press edges tightly to seal. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. Put meatball in pot of hot sauce to cover and simmer for an hour. Slice and serve with extra sauce.

For a printable recipe click here


vanillasugarblog said...

I am so making this! My hubby is Italian too, but sadly he's not that into Italian cuisine as I am. I think I can try and half this recipe just for me and the rest for the freezer.
If your hubby is ever so inclined Lidia Bastianich (as seen on PBS) has incredible old-school Italian dishes that I love; great cookbooks too. So does Mario Batali, but he probably knows all this.
Happy New Year to you if I don't chat with you before then.

Laurie said...

We have three of Lidia's cookbooks among our Italian collection! I simply can not resist buying Italian cookbooks.

My kids call me an Italian wannabe. Guilty as charged.

Dharm said...

Laurie, those meatballs look better than good! Blessed Christmas to you and yours!

Live.Love.Eat said...

Wow, I never heard of that meatball. Well it sounds like you had an awesome Christmas too! The lasagna sounds amazing. Do you guys have that recipe? I made a lasagna as well, just a bit different.

Michele said...

I've never heard of Polpettone before, but it looks wonderful. Now to convince Phil to try it. :) I know that Dawn mentioned Lidia Bastianich, so I have to mention Domenica Marchetti. She has a book out called "Big Night In" It's a great book filled with family style Italian cooking.
I'm so happy that you had a great holiday. We chose to spend it alone, just the two of us. It was near perfect! Except for the darned ham. Now I remember why I hate cooking cured hams.

NKP said...

Mmm, looks like wonderfully comforting fare.
I can't believe you cook for 16+! I get nervous with 6!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Wow! That is one delicious looking giant meatball! That Lasagna too looks incredible and it sounds like you had a bunch of yummy food. Hope your New Year's is equally as good!

Meg said...

Oh my goodness! I have never seen anything like it! AMAZING!

The Mediocre Cook said...

Okay that looks totally amazing. I am definitely going to be giving that giant meatball a try!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I am trading in my husband for an Italian one!