Polpette in Agrodolce

Calabrian Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

There is plenty of texture and flavour in this wonderful Calabrian dish, which is capable of infinite variety. Although it usually consists of little meatballs, the mixture can also be made as one large meatloaf and cooked for much longer. The proportion of pork and beef can be altered, or just one type of meat can be used. The cheese, too, can be varied. The tomato sauce is delicious, but it can be omitted, and the meatballs simply fried, covered with wine must, spiked with almonds and served with some boiled potatoes.


  • 2 slices day-old bread, total weight about 115 g/4 oz
  • 120 ml/4 fl oz/½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1garlic clove, chopped
  • 400 g/14 oz passata/bottled strained tomatoes
  • 200 g/7 oz/scant 1 cup minced/ground pork
  • 200 g/7 oz/scant 1 cup minced/ground beef
  • 2eggs, beaten
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 50 g/2 oz/½ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 30-45 ml/2-3 tbsp wine must or sweet balsamic vinegar (see Cook’s Tip)
  • 75 g/3 oz/¾ cup flaked/sliced almonds
  • sea salt and ground black pepper


  1. Soak the bread in water until soft. Heat about a quarter of the olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes until the onion has softened.

  2. Pour in the passata, mix well, season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer while you prepare the meatballs.
  3. Put the pork and beef in a bowl and mix well, preferably with your hands. Add the eggs.

  4. Drain the bread, squeeze it dry and mix the bread and eggs with the meat. Add the parsley and grated cheese, with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Work the mixture with your hands until all the ingredients are well distributed. Shape this mixture into little balls.

  6. Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry the meatballs for about 5 minutes, until browned all over. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer them to the tomato sauce and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour over the wine must. Leave to stand for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Spoon the meatballs and sauce on to a heated serving platter and slip a few almond flakes into each meatball before serving.