Make Caroline Eden's polpette pasta

A Ukrainian-inspired twist on the classic Italian pasta, these meatballs make for a great midweek supper served with spaghetti or linguine

Caroline Eden's Italian street polpette pasta

Serves 5

Preparation time 20 mins

Cooking time 55 mins

"Odessa's very first restaurateurs were Italians," writes Caroline Eden in her new book Black Sea. "For a while, their meatballs and spaghetti became the dish of Odessa. This recipe for beef and pork polpette is how I imagine they were eaten back then – livened up with fennel seeds and cayenne pepper, a spice sold in Odessa's first shops."


For the meatballs

  • 500g ground beef
  • 500g ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 75g breadcrumbs
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed to a powder

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of caster sugar
  • 2 x 400g cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • 200ml chicken stock

To finish

  • 375g of spaghetti or linguine
  • Parmesan
  • Roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Start with the sauce. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole over a medium heat. When warm, add the onion, pepper, salt, tomato paste and cayenne and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the oregano, sugar, tomatoes (breaking them up with a wooden spoon as you go), and stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 220°C. Grease a baking tray or line with foil. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix together using your hands. Roll the mixture into around 25–30 golf ball-sized balls. Place on the tray and roast in the oven for 7 minutes, turning the meatballs once, then cook for another 7 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, blitz the cooled sauce until smooth using a blender.
  5. Add the sauce back to its casserole and add the meatballs. Poach gently for 5 minutes, keeping the lid on (or use foil to cover).
  6. Serve on some spaghetti or linguine, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and some parsley.

From Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes Through Darkness and Light by Caroline Eden; photography by Ola O. Smit. Published by Quadrille

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