The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

How to make it: Emiko Davies’ polpette di Nonna Anna (Granny Anna’s meatballs) recipe

A rich heirloom recipe, Emiko’s Puglian polpette in tomato sauce are a crowd-pleasing dish worthy of continuing down the family line

By Emiko Davies
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:20 BST, Updated 19 Jul 2021, 15:34 BST

The best part of this Puglian recipe is perhaps the sauce, richly flavoured with pancetta and the polpette, and used to dress pasta as a first course. The rest of the polpette are served as the main, along with roast potatoes and a crisp salad.

Serves: 6-8
Takes: 1 hr 10 mins





700g minced beef
300g minced pork
2 eggs
50g parmesan, grated
50g dry breadcrumbs
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
80g pancetta or rigatino, finely sliced
700g tomato passata

1 Combine the beef, pork, eggs, parmesan, breadcrumbs and parsley with 1 tsp salt and some freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Mix very well — using your hands is best — until you have a firm, well amalgamated mixture. Shape into balls a little larger than golf balls. Set aside.
2 Heat the olive oil over a medium–high heat in a deep casserole pot. Sear the polpette in batches, for about 2 mins each side, until lightly browned. (You don’t need to cook them through; just colour them.) Once the meatballs are browned, remove from the pan, reduce the heat to low and gently fry the onion slices and pancetta for about 7 mins, or until the onion is softened and the pancetta melts and begins to crisp slightly.
3 Return the polpette to the pot. Add the passata along with 250ml water. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over a low–medium heat. Cover and cook for 25 mins, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for a further 15 mins, or until the sauce has reduced to a rich, thick consistency.
4 Serve the polpette as they are, with plenty of sauce, together with roast potatoes and a crisp green salad. Or, set aside the meatballs (keeping them warm) and toss the sauce into your favourite pasta, cooked al dente. Serve this as the first course with parmesan and parsley, then serve the meatballs as the main.

Read our interview with Emiko here


Published in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food (UK)

Follow us on social media 

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Flipboard

Read More

You might also like

How Berlin is blazing a trail in zero-waste, sustainable food
Is Tucson the best city for Mexican food in the US?
How to make it: Emiko Davies’ torta con i ciccioli di Nonna Maria (Granny Maria’s lard cake) recipe
What they're eating in Washington, DC
Pancake Day: five of the best pancake alternatives

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved