Gino D’Acampo polpette recipe: Meatballs like mamma made them

Italian chef Gino D’Acampo on his best-selling pasta and meatballs

This is my mum’s recipe. She used to cook this for me once a week.

It was a special occasion when she made it because it requires expensive ingredients (meat and parmesan) and mine was not the wealthiest of families.

Mum began using smaller meatballs because we used to complain when we only got one or two with our pasta. She came up with the idea of mini meatballs so then we could say “I’ve got 10 meatballs, or I’ve got eight.”

The recipe is exactly the same, I haven’t changed a thing. And there’s even 10 meatballs in every serving at My Pasta Bar.

You can choose to cook it with fettuccine or pappardelle, whatever you want.

Basically, you make the meatballs with minced beef, parsley, egg, a bit of flour, just to bind everything together, a bit of olive oil, then onion.

Then you create a tomato sauce with a bit of wine, a bit of chilli, chopped tomatoes, of course, then let it cook for three and a half hours so you get a nice intense flavour.

I sat round the table and ate this with my family. My dad loved it and my sister Marcella was crazy for it. It’s strange because it was the most popular dish in our house and now it’s the most popular dish on the menu in My Pasta Bar.

I started to cook when I was about eight or nine with my mum. And then I went to catering college but my style is exactly the same as hers.

People seem willing to accept lunchtime food is not meant to be good and they are OK with it – well I’m not OK with it. Lunch time food doesn’t have to be a cold baguette or a bowl of soup.

It’s a vitally important meal, especially when you’re in the middle of London and there are people who work very hard for long hours and need to concentrate. The least we can do is give them good food.

Otherwise they might make bad decisions that could affect the whole country. You could even say I’m saving this country by providing them with a good hearty meal at lunchtime.

The first thing people say to me when they taste this dish is: “I went to Italy, I had this dish, and it was exactly the same.” And that for me is the most important thing ever.

If you buy fresh ingredients, you don’t really have to do anything. Put them all in a pan with a bit of olive oil and the ingredients do the job.

If people spent more time buying the right ingredients instead of over-complicating things, they’d find more time to cook good food, they would spend less time in the kitchen and it would taste great.

Gino D’Acampo’s Fettuccine con Polpette recipe:

This is a family favourite and a staple for the kids. True Italians would never serve spaghetti with meatballs; it has to be fettuccine or pappardelle pasta to be authentic.

This recipe serves four.

INGREDIENTS

250g minced beef

1 egg

Handful of finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

100g white flour

90ml olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely sliced

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

Small glass of red wine

600g tinned chopped tomatoes

500g fettuccine or pappardelle

Salt to taste

100g freshly grated Pecorino cheese to garnish

METHOD

In a large bowl, mix the minced beef, eggs, and parsley together. Season to taste.

Take a teaspoonful of the meat mixture and use your hands to roll it into a ball.

Dust the ball in the flour and put to one side. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently sauté the onion and chilli until soft.

Add the meatballs and fry gently for about 6 minutes until golden brown.

Add the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.

Add the chopped tomatoes, season to taste and cook for a further 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine or pappardelle in a large pan of boiling, salted water until al dente.

Drain and add it to the sauce. Mix well. Serve the pasta topped with the freshly grated Pecorino cheese.

Gino’s Italian Escape by Gino D’Acampo is available to buy for £20 published by Hodder & Stoughton. Dish available from Gino D’Acampo’s My Pasta Bar at 40-43 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1BT.

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