I first sampled my new favorite appetizer during our stay at B&B Pietraviva outside of the town of Cisternino in the Valle d’Itria of Puglia. Breakfast is included at this charming trullo and when we heard that it was possible to have dinner prepared for us (at an incredibly fair price) we decided to dine in one evening.
We left the menu up to Giovanni- the son of the owner-who would be our chef for the evening. The only direction we gave him was to keep it simple. And yes, the food was simple, but also plentiful! For starters we sampled various cheeses, capocollo from Martina Franca, fava beans from their property, taralli and the star of the show-polpettine di pane. We couldn’t stop eating these small savory fried balls. They were crispy and cheesy and I wasn’t quite sure what else was in them. I asked Giovanni what they were and he replied “polpettine di pane” which translates to bread meatballs.
The pasta was handmade orecchiette dressed with fave and cherry tomatoes from the garden. Paired with a crisp white wine from the area it was the the perfect representation of the food of Puglia.
Upon our return home I searched for a recipe for the polpettine. I found one that sounded like it might be what we had, but when I made them I found them a little too bready, still tasty, but not as good as Giovanni’s. I sort of put my search on the back burner when I was reading a cookbook (The Southern Italian Farmer’s Table) I’ve had for years when I saw a recipe called Shepherd Style Fried Cheese Fritters. I promptly went to the store, bought some provolone and fried up a batch. They were exactly as I remembered from our dinner at Pietraviva. I’ve since made them twice and although perfect on their own, we love them served with a simple tomato sauce.
Polpettine di Pane
2-1/2 ounces (75g) rustic bread
3 large eggs
7 ounces (200g) mild provolone, grated
3-1/2 ounces (100g) aged pecorino, grated
1-3/4 ounces (50g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Pinch of baking soda
Canola oil for frying
Cut the crust off the bread and discard or reserve for another use. Cut the bread into pieces, put into a food processor and pulse until coarse. Add the eggs, provolone, pecorino, Parmigiano and baking soda and puree until smooth.
Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 1 hour.
Scoop up a generous teaspoonful of the mixture and shape it into a 1″ ball. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and continue shaping the balls.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (90C).
Heat 1/2 inch canola oil in a large straight sided skillet to 350 degrees. Add the fritters in batches and cook turning occasionally until crisp and brown on all sides. Be sure not to crowd the skillet as this will reduce the temperature of the oil. The balls will cook quickly-about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to an ovenproof plate lined with paper towels and keep warm in oven while frying the remaining fritters.
Panini Girl In Lucca September 2020-get in touch at email@example.com