Meatless Meatballs: Polpette di Lupo

Total Time:
1 hr 30 min
25 min
10 min
55 min

6 servings

  • 1 pound stale country-style bread, crusts removed and cut into thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, leaves chopped to yield 2 tablespoons
  • 1 bunch basil, leaves chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
  • Kosher salt

In a large bowl add the bread slices and milk. Let sit until the bread is soaked through, then squeeze dry. Crumble and tear the soaked bread into smaller pieces and process in the food processor, using quick pulses, to yield 4 cups soaked crumbs.

Mix the crumbs in a bowl with the eggs, cheese, herbs, and garlic, adding salt and pepper, to taste. Form into round balls about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside on a rack or plate to dry for about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil to frying temperature, about 360 degrees F, and fry the bread balls until brown on all sides. Remove the balls as they brown and drain on a rack covered with paper towels.

Have the tomato sauce ready. Arrange the balls on a platter and lightly cover with sauce. Serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Yield: 4 cups

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Cooking Tips
4.7 12
These meatless balls were excellent!! I only used 1/3 of the recipe because I didn't want to use an entire pound of bread, about 4 or 5 slices. Be sure to squeeze all of the milk out of the bread (a whole grain bread and just 1 egg. Besides the basil and parsley I added freshly ground fennel seed about 1/8 tsp and about 1 tsp of oregano to the mix. Instead of frying the balls I poured alittle olive oil on my hands and gently rubbed the oil on the already formed balls and baked on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees turning every 5 mins for about 20 min till lightly browned and firm. Turned out perfectly. Made 12 balls. My husband is Italian and said "they even taste like meat and have a meaty tecture" Used my own tomato sauce but similar to Marios. Will definitely use the full one pound of bread next time!! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I made this for my vegetarian boyfriend on one of our first dates. It was soooo great! I also used Mario's sauce recipe and its now my go-to. Fresh herbs really shine and make a difference in this dish. Try to avoid substituting dried. item not reviewed by moderator and published
Oh man these are the best! I added mozzarella to the middle while rolling them. It made them so tender, like eating a cloud. I baked them halfway then added them to the sauce. Seriously a must try! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Thank you to the reviewer who suggested putting them in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes -- I don't think I could have fried them otherwise! Mine weren't quite balls, but almost patties, they were so wet. I only used 2 eggs and it was just fine. I didn't even need to do the processing step -- my stale bread just fell apart into crumbs in the milk. The sauce published here is the perfect complement to the meatballs, and the dish is deeply satisfying. I enjoyed it more than a regular meatball (and my vegetarian friend went crazy for this dish!!. item not reviewed by moderator and published
This is great! I agree limiting the recipe to 2 eggs and placing the "meatballs" in the oven first make for the best results. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I was really pleasantly surprised by this dish. The flavor is incredible!!! I took the advice of the other reviewer and placed the meatballs in the oven first for 10 minutes at 350 to dry the meatballs out a little bit and then placed them in the frying pan. I would argue with another reviewer that the sauce drowns out the flavor of the meatballs. In my opinion, the sauce and the flavor of the meatballs complemented each other so well. I would definitely make this again. Well worth the steps and time. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I took a chance when I saw Mario make this on an old episode of Malto Mario. I'm so glad I did! It is one of the best dishes I have ever made! For vegetarians this is great! For vegans I would say substitute soy or rice milk. You might be able to use an egg substitute where it calls for eggs and there is at least one vegan parm cheese brand out there that I'm sure would work fine! Also, I did not need to use 3 eggs. I used 2, but one would have been plenty! Depends on the day I suppose. :D item not reviewed by moderator and published
They have a great flavor and are fairly easy to make, mine came out a little mushy so I baked them first. My whole family loved them and we will be making them again. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I loved the recipe and I skipped a few steps - I hand mashed the bread and mixed everything. I'll be making it again! item not reviewed by moderator and published
This "meatballs" are really flavorful and filling. As a vegetarian, I do miss certain dishes, and spaghetti and meatballs is one those dishes. I also found that mixing in a little ground soy "meat" (which can be found in most grocery stores in the organic food section) also adds a little more texture. Overall, I highly recommend this recipe. item not reviewed by moderator and published