Baccala Meatballs: Polpette di Musillo

Total Time:
1 hr
30 min
30 min

4 servings

  • 2 pounds dried salt cod (baccala), soaked for 48 hours in cold water, changing water at least twice daily
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 slices soft, white sandwich bread
  • 1 cup nocino (green walnut liqueur)
  • 1 cup black Gaeta olives, pitted
  • 1/3 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh oregano, leaves finely chopped to yield 1/8 cup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained and crushed by hand
  • Rinse the soaked baccala and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

  • Lightly oil a 10-inch metal baking pan.

  • In a shallow bowl or pan, lay the bread slices flat. Pour the nocino over the bread and let stand, so that the liquor soaks into and softens the bread.

  • Roughly chop the baccala into chunks, about 1/4-inch each. Place these chunks in a medium-sized braising pot. Add the half the olives and half the capers. Add the soaked bread, pouring in any of the excess nocino, and use either your hands or a wooden spoon to blend all the ingredients, breaking up the bread. Mix until the meatball mixture is homogenous. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and a generous pinch of oregano. Mix again until well combined. Add the eggs and mix until completely homogenous.

  • Using your hands, form 12 evenly sized, meatballs from the mixture, each slightly larger in diameter than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball. Using your palm, squash each meatball so that they resemble thick coins in shape. This shape will help them hold up during the cooking process.

  • In a 12 to 14-inch saucepan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 6 at a time, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes each batch. Set the browned meatballs aside.

  • In a 14-inch saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until hot but not smoking. Add the sliced garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the remaining olives, capers and oregano. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer until they are warm throughout. Serve immediately.

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