Polpettine dei Bacari


These polpettine are crispy on the outside and super-soft and juicy on the inside due to the addition of mashed potato. Ridiculously moreish and easy to eat when skewered with a little toothpick, they and work really well alongside a bitter aperitivo such as Campari.

I’ve used minced beef for this recipe, but a number of Venetian bacari do a version with tuna, which I also love. If you’d like to try this instead, just sub-in some canned tuna in place of the mince, the rest of the ingredients remain the same.

It is useful to have a frying thermometer to hand for this recipe as the polpettine need to be deep-fried relatively slowly in order to give them time to cook through. If you don’t have one of these however, you can proceed with a little trial and error, adjusting the temperature of the oil as you go.



(Makes approx. 60 little tiny party sized meatballs)

  • 500g minced beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 1 large potato (approx. 300g)
  • 1 slice of day old white bread (approx. 25g)
  • 120mls milk
  • Small bunch of parsley – roughly chopped
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Plain flour for dusting
  • 50g coarse homemade bread crumbs (or Japanese panko breadcrumbs also work well)
  • 750mls sunflower or canola oil for deep frying

In a small saucepan, cover the potato with water and boil over a moderate heat, skin on, until cooked through. 

While the potato is cooking, lightly fry the garlic in a little oil, removing from the heat as it begins to colour. In a large bowl, mix the garlic through the mince beef with a fork, also adding two eggs, the Parmesan cheese, as well as the chopped parsley, and seasoning generously with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, soak the bread in the milk, allowing it to absorb the liquid and become spongy.

Meanwhile, drain the cooked potato and, while it is still hot, use your fingers to peel away the skin. Pass the peeled potato through a ricer, or mash by hand until it is soft and free of lumps. 

Now, squeeze the bread to remove any excess milk, and then add to the mince mixture, stirring together thoroughly. Also mix through the mashed potato at this point.

Form the polpettine by pinching up a small amount of meat mixture and rolling together between your palms to make little balls of approximately 2.5cm in diameter, (much larger than this and they won’t cook through properly when it comes to frying).

When you’ve finished rolling, place the polpettine in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours before coating and frying.

When you are ready to cook, lay out two large plates and a bowl. In the first plate, place some plain flour for dusting, and season with salt and pepper. In the second plate, place the breadcrumbs also adding a little salt and pepper to these. And in the bowl, beat together the two remaining eggs.

Roll the polpettine first through the flour, then shake off any excess, before dipping in the egg using a fork. Allow any excess egg to drip off before finally rolling through the breadcrumbs to coat.

To fry, place a frying thermometer along with the sunflower oil in a small, deep saucepan, taking care not to fill the saucepan over halfway with oil. Heat on medium for approximately 5 minutes, or until the thermometer reads between 160-170°C. 

At this temperature, it should take 5 minutes for your polpettine to turn a golden-brown colour when fried in batches of 5 at a time. Over-filling the pan is dangerous, and will result in the polpettine taking longer to cook, so try to stick with smaller batches.

If your polpettine are becoming too dark too quickly, then remove the oil from the heat briefly, turning down the flame, and placing the oil back on to heat once it has cooled a little. It is a good idea, whether you are using a thermometer or not, to slice open a few of the first batch just to see if they have cooked through. Place your finger in the centre of the meat filling – if it is piping hot and rubbly in appearance, it’s cooked. If not, turn the heat down a bit for the next batch and fry a few minutes longer.

Once cooked, pop a toothpick into each of the little ball and serve warm or at room temperature, with something delicious to drink.