This special recipe comes from Jessica Theroux’s Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, a gorgeous book with heartfelt stories and classic recipes from Tuscany to Sicily. Theroux spent over a year in Italy, seeking out female elders to learn the roots and the wisdom of their culinary heritage. She stood at their side as they made bagna cauda, gnocchi di semolina, minestrone, osso buco, and much more. I bookmarked many recipes in this book.
These chard balls come from a grandmother named Carluccia who lives in the Southern region of Calabria. I was instantly drawn to these veggie polpette. They are a perfect Pezzo recipe; bite-sized, colorful and healthy. The baked polpette are fluffy on the inside, with a nice crunch on the surface from the toasted sesame seeds.
Polpette di Bietola e Marmellata di Cipolla Rossa
(Chard-Sesame Balls and Red Onion Jam)
serves 6-8 for an appetizer
For the Polpette
2 bunches chard, destemmed and washed
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan or hard pecorino
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon zest
salt to taste
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup tan-colored sesame seeds
For the Marmellata
1 cup very finely diced red onions
1/4 cup sugar
small pinch of salt
cayenne pepper to taste
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1. To prepare the marmelatta, place the onions, sugar, salt, and cayenne together in a small pan. Turn the heat to medium-low, and bring to a boil. The onions will give off significant water–let the mixture boil until it becomes a jam-like consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let cool to room temperature before serving with the warm polpette.
2. To prepare the polpette, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Steam the chard leaves for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the chard and let briefly cool. Vigorously squeeze the chard dry by turning and pressing it against a fine-mesh strainer repeatedly to strain out the liquid.
3. Finely puree the chard in a food processor. Place a cup of the chard in a large mixing bowl and whisk together with the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil and sesame seeds.
4. Place some olive oil in one bowl, and sesame seeds in another. Roll the chard mixture into balls (using about 2 tablespoons per ball). Roll the balls first in the olive oil and then the sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned on the bottom.