Served here in Brazil, mainly with pasta and tomato sauce, meat balls are always a success. It’s that kind of comfort food that the crowd loves and gives that warm heart just to imagine.
And even though it is such a common dish, few people know how to differentiate its variations. After all, what are the particularities of a meatball, polpetta or polpettone? Are they the spices, the sizes or the fillings?
Before we reveal to you every detail about these delights, I think it is important to know a little more about the meatballs history. Contrary to what many people think, they were not an Italian invention. There are several records of meat dumplings, but it appears that they appeared in Persia, and were made with leftover meat. Today, we even know the dish as Kafta.
When they arrived in Italy, meatballs were also commonly served as an appetizer, without tomato sauce or pasta. The United States was responsible for making this combination, which is still popular today. Who imagined there?
Of course, after so many years circulating the world, the recipe has gained thousands of variations and ways of serving, and the truth is that there is not much rule. Still, there are certain differences that deserve to be commented on. So, let’s go to them:
Meatballs and polpettas (or even porpetas) are the same thing. Basically, a small meat dumpling, which is fried, roasted or baked. This is the version that Italians used to serve without sauce, and today they are very common in dishes with pasta and tomato sauce.
The secret to keeping them moist is to mix stale bread with bread, grated and slightly wet in water or milk. Then, a good mix of spices to make the meat very tasty.
There are stuffed versions of the meatball, as shown in this recipe, but that is not the rule. This is because, because they are smaller, it is easy for the filling to burst.
The main difference of the polpettone is, without a doubt the size, three to four times bigger than a simple polpetta. For this reason, it is usually served individually, while meatballs come in several units.
In addition, the polpettone is always stuffed – usually with cheese. It’s like a giant hamburger, but always accompanied by tomato sauce. With the exception of the filling, the ingredients that make up the meatloaf preparation are the same, even including the bread tip.
Nowadays, in Italy, it is common to find this preparation with several other ingredients, such as olives, sausage, cheeses, ham, eggs, pinolis… The recipe changes according to nonna, but the idea of a stuffed meat loaf is always the same.
It is also important to remember that preparing a well-made polpettone can be much more challenging. Because it is bigger, it must keep its crispness on the outside, but it must also be cooked on the inside and the filling very warm and melted. Here, the cooking point needs to be perfect, so you need to keep an eye on the temperatures throughout the preparation.
To get the best result, it is recommended that the polpettone is fried and then roasted, spreading the heat throughout its surroundings and cooking it whole. In this last stage, he can even go immersed in the sauce, absorbing even more flavor.
So, did you imagine that these were the differences? The truth is that no matter the size or the filling, meat dumplings are always delicious!