ES.S41 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full

Lesson 5

Lesson 5: Cooking Instruction

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Watch two videos:

Lesson 5, Part 2: Ingredients and Vocabulary

Lesson 5, Part 3: Cooking Instruction

Le Polpette di Carne, di Tonno e Vegetariane/Meatballs, Tuna Balls, Vegetarian “Meatballs”


Listen to a list of the ingredients for this week’s dish.

Ascolta e ripeti./Listen and repeat (MP3 - 3.8MB)

Polpette di Carne/Meatballs


  • la car-ne di man-zo ma-ci-na-ta 
  • Il ma-ci-na-to
  • la sal-sic-cia
  • ci-pol-la
  • a-glio
  • il par-mi-gia-no
  • il prez-ze-mo-lo
  • l’uo-vo
  • il pan-grat-ta-to
  • l’er-ba ci-pol-li-na
  • il ton-no in sca-to-la
  • la ri-cot-ta/a light cheese (literally “cooked twice”.  Most recipes in which you use cream cheese, you can use ricotta instead and it is much lighter.)
  • la no-ce mos-ca-ta/nutmeg
  • la lat-tu-ga
  • l’in-sa-la-ta ro-ma-na
  • il po-mo-do-ri-no
  • l’a-ce-to bal-sa-mi-co

Ingredienti Per 2 Persone

  • 200 g  di carne macinata (ground meat; we used a mix of beef and sausages with the skin removed)
  • 1-2 cipolle/onions
  • aglio/garlic (as much or as little as you like)
  • olio d’oliva/olive oil
  • parmigiano grattugiato/grated parmesan cheese
  • prezzemolo/italian parsley (1 bunch)
  • sale
  • spezie/spices (include noce moscata/nutmeg)


  • pan grattato/bread crumbs)
  • One uovo/egg
  • passata di pomodoro/strained tomatoes
  • zucchero/sugar


You can cook the meatballs in three different ways: deep fried, sautéed or in tomato sauce.

This recipe is for the last two options. If you want to fry them, follow the same steps (2→5) then deep fry them and drain the oil on paper towels.

  1. In a large pan prepare a soffritto/sweat with chopped garlic and onions. If you plan to use tomato sauce you can make the sweat with very little oil; otherwise you can use a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil and more onions or other veggies (e.g. carrots, celery).
  2. In the meantime, mince the rest of the onions and the parsley.
  3. Combine the ground meat, minced onions, parsley, a pinch of salt, and your favorite spices.
  4. Optional (more heavy): add some bread crumbs and one egg.
  5. Make small meatballs: if they are smaller they cook faster. I like them the size of a walnut.
  6. Add the meatballs to the sweat, increase the heat and saute until brown on all sides, and all the water they release evaporates.
  7. (over 21: add a glass of red wine and simmer until the alcohol is evaporated)
  8. Le polpette sono pronte!/ The meatballs are are ready!
  9. If you like them in tomato sauce, take a box of plain strained tomatoes (e.g. Pomì) and mix with the meatballs. Add salt and a little of sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick.

In the U.S. meatballs are usually served on top of pasta. We typically serve meatballs as a second course, with some veggies as a side.

In class we made a salad with lattuga/insalata romana/romaine lettuce, pomodorini/cherry tomatoes and the basic italian _condimento/_dressing: salt, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar or a little lemon juice.

Polpette Di Zucchine/Zucchini Balls

Ingredienti Per 2 Persone

  • Two zucchini
  • One spicchio di aglio/garlic clove
  • One uovo/egg
  • Pan grattato/Pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated→bread crumbs)
  • 50 g pecorino romano grattuggiato (grated). You can also use parmesan instead, or another hard cheese
  • One bunch of erba cipollina/chives. Good alternatives: mint or parsley
  • spezie/spices e.g. a tiny bit of nutmeg and/or cardamom, curry (not used much in the Italian kitchen)
  • olio d’oliva/olive oil
  • sale (salt)


  1. Make a soffritto/sweatwith garlic (minced, or in disks, or as a whole, based on your taste).
  2. In the meantime wash and grate the zucchini.
  3. When the garlic is a little translucent, add the grated zucchini and cook at high heat, add salt and spices.
  4. When most of the water from the zucchini is evaporated, remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees C (about 400 degrees F) C=Celsius or centigradi.
  6. In a bowl combine the zucchini, mix with the egg, grated cheese, minced chives. You can use your hands to mix everything. Optional: you can add roasted pine nuts.
  7. Add the plain bread crumbs: you want to add them to get a more solid consistency, but if you add too many bread crumbs the zucchini balls will be hard and less tasty.
  8. Make zucchini balls of about one inch in diameter.
  9. Optional: you can gently roll them in bread crumbs
  10. Take an oven tray and spread a thin coat of olive oil.
  11. Cuocere in forno a 200 degrees C (circa 400 degrees F) for about 15 minuti.

Polpette Di Tonno/Tuna Balls

Ingredienti Per 2 Persone

  • 200 g tonno in olio d’oliva/canned tuna in olive oil
  • One uovo/egg
  • 30 g parmigiano grattuggiato/grated parmesan
  • 100 g ricotta cheese
  • 50 g pan grattato/pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated→bread crumbs)
  • Optional: prezzemolo/Italian parsley, 1 bunch
  • spezie/spices
  • olio d’oliva/olive oil
  • sale/salt


  1. Drain the tuna.
  2. In a bowl combine the tuna, grated parmesan, egg, ricotta, spices, bread crumbs, and a pinch of salt. If you want, include some minced leaves of parsley.
  3. Make tuna balls of the size of a cherry tomato.
  4. Saute them in a large pan with very little olive oil until golden.
  5. Alternatively, you can bake them.

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