Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Le Migliori Polpette di Tonno

Or, 'the best tuna meatballs.' In the last couple of weeks, pasta with tuna kept coming to my attention, and I developed a craving for it. This dish comes from Jamie's Italy which is a great book. He writes that he saw these made in Sicily with a combination of swordfish and tuna. The Sicilian influence is evident, I suppose, with the addition of cinnamon.

Fresh tuna is used rather than canned, but it is cooked first with pine nuts and cinnamon and then mixed with lemon juice, zest, breadcrumbs, grated parmigiana, oregano, parsley, and eggs. The mixture is formed into meatballs just smaller than a golf ball. Then, they are browned in olive oil and added to the tomato sauce.

It smelled delicious as it cooked, and I tasted crumbled bits of the meatballs as I removed them from the olive oil. The flavor of those little pieces was very good. However, when we sat down to full plates, we quickly realized that the lemon was slightly too present and the tuna was somewhat lost. I would make a few changes next time around. First, I always use homemade breadcrumbs which come from whole grain breads. In this case simple, white breadcrumbs would be better. Second, I would cut back on the lemon zest by about half. And, last, some crushed red pepper or cayenne added to the meatball mixture might be nice. I should have thought about the breadcrumbs being too wheaty, maybe the lemon I used was bigger than usual, and adding crushed red pepper might only have occurred to me because the flavor was off due to the first two issues. So, what do I know?

The tuna meatballs were much less heavy than even ground turkey or chicken ones tend to be, and the basic tomato sauce was very good. I would make this again with changes. But, I’m still interested in trying some other takes on pasta with tuna.


  1. This looks like it would be fun to play around with. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. I love meatballs, but have never tried making tuna meatballs before. This sounds like fun. I can't wait to try them.

  3. I make these about once every two weeks, but I don't include any lemon zest at all - just a spritz of juice. Also, I always make sure to include a big pinch of my favourite dried chillis, as well as including fresh chillies in the tomato sauce. In any case, tuna meatballs rule.

  4. These sound great - I love tuna and pasta together!

  5. How much breadcrumbs do you put in the "meat" balls? I've seen this recipe with 2 different amounts. On Jamie's site he says "3-1/2 ounces stale breadcrumbs" but on several other sites it says "1-3/4 cups stale breadcrumbs". This sounds like a large discrepancy and I was wondering what you used.

  6. AriMR: I followed the recipe as listed in the book which calls fro 1-3/4 c breadcrumbs, but I remember that that was too much. I would cut that back closer to one cup.


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