Polpettone are large meatballs that some Italians try to describe to North Americans as “meat loaf cooked on top of the stove.”
The meatball can be made as one large pie-sized meat-ball, or as pattie-sized meatballs.
They can be made from anything: beef, turkey, calamari, tuna, vegetables, squash, beans, potatoes, etc. For a starch binder, potato, bread crumbs or flour can be used.
Different versions of Polpettone are made in different areas — even by city:
- Bologna: ground beef, pancetta, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, seasoning (cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.) Browned in butter, other ingredients added to pan, then braised until all is cooked and tender;
- Florence: ground veal, flour, sautéed carrots and sautéed onions, parsley, lemon juice;
- Roman Jews: ground chicken, bread crumbs, eggs, cinnamon, and pepper. Formed, then browned, then braised with white wine, carrots and celery;
- Liguria: an all-vegetable version (see “Polpettone di fagiolini”)
If the Polpettone is braised with other things, the sauce is often then used as a pasta sauce.
In Italian, “polpettone” means “big meatball.”