Polpette and Polpettoni


The polpette (rissoles) is an ancient dish. The term derives from the latin pulpa, which is meat without bones or pulp. We find it mentioned in the text of Apicio (Roman gourmet who began the "snob" and erotic cooking: Manuel Vsquez Montalbn mentions his "melanzane all'alessandrina", an erotic dish in which the melanzane (aubergine) is flavoured with coriander, mint, vinegar, dates, pine kernels, honey, anchovy, cumin, white wine, oil, salt pepper and garum...), and in that of Pannunto Toscano (XV century) that suggested cooking it rolled on a net. In ancient times it had much success because it was easy to eat even when there was no cutlery (as we know the fork is a relatively recent invention). Many recipes for polpette and polpettoni were given by Olindo Guerrini (18th century poet who wrote under the pseudonym Lorenzo Stecchetti) in his book "L'arte di utilizzare gli avanzi della mensa" (The art of using the leftovers from the canteens) was published posthumously in 1918. His friend Artusi demonstrated a certain contempt for the polpette writing: This is a dish that all know how to make, begining with ciuco, of which perhaps is the first and giving a human shape (referring to the form of excrement from the ass...). Better treatment is reserved for the polpettone (meat loaf) of which is written these words: Signor polpettone, come forward, do not be hesitant, I want to present you to my readers. I know that you are modest and humble, but take courage, do not doubt that with some words in your favour you will find someone that wants to taste you and will also make a pleasant face. Traditionally the polpettone should be made with raw meat, whereas the polpette is a way of eating left-over meats, above all boiled meats.
The polpette is fried and sometimes remade with tomato sauce, whereas the polpettone may be cooked in a saucepan without anything added or with tomatoes. There exists also a good polpettone freddo. The ingredients are the same (minced beef, ham or mortadella, egg, pieces of bread soaked in milk, grated parmesan, parsley and, if you like, nutmeg and some grated lemon rind), but, onced shaped, it is bound up with cloth or gauze and sewn. You may boil it in salted water with the classic recipe for broth; when it is cooked, once cooled, it is taken out of the water and left to become cold with a weight on top, to squeeze out all the liquid. Put it into the fridge for an hour and then cut it into pieces and serve covered with mayonnaise or simply accompanied with pickles.