"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."
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
Ola O. Smit
Preparation time 20 mins
Cooking time 55 mins
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
- 375g of spaghetti or linguine
- Roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meanwhile, blitz the cooled sauce until smooth using a blender.
- 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).
- Serve on some spaghetti or linguine, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and some parsley.