Spinach ‘meatballs’ (Polpettine di spinaci)

Makes 26–28

1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) English spinach

3 egg yolks

75 g (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

30 g (1 oz) parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve, if desired

Zest of 1 lemon, plus extra to serve, if desired

100 g (1 cup) dry breadcrumbs

Extra virgin olive oil, for pan-frying

Freshly cracked black pepper


Wash the spinach several times until it is clean of dirt or sand. Remove and discard the thick stalks and any damaged leaves. Place a large saucepan that
will fit all the spinach over medium heat. Place the washed (and still wet) spinach in the pan and, using tongs, push it down until the heat starts wilting the spinach. This should only take a couple of minutes. When it has wilted completely, remove from the heat. Place in a colander to drain, then place the cooked leaves in a clean tea towel and squeeze all the excess water out. The spinach should be quite dry. Chop finely by hand or in a food processor, then set aside to cool.

Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk briefly with a fork. Add the butter and mix it into the eggs with a spoon. Next, add the finely chopped spinach, mixing well, then the parmesan, lemon zest and about one-third 
of the breadcrumbs. The mixture should be quite firm and you should be able to shape it into balls; add a few more breadcrumbs if needed.

Shape the mixture into walnut-shaped balls, about 20 g in weight. Roll in the remaining breadcrumbs. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large non- stick frying pan. Pan-fry the polpettine in batches, turning them over regularly for 5–6 minutes, or until they are golden all over.

Serve warm, topping with pepper and extra parmesan or lemon zest if desired.


Istria is the heart-shaped promontory at the northern crux of the Adriatic Sea, where rows of vines and olive trees grow in fields of red soil. Here, the cuisine records a history of changing borders – a blend of countries (Italy, the Republic of Venice, Austria, Hungary and now Slovenia and Croatia) have shared Istria’s hills, valleys, sea and shore. 

The book records the traditions of these cultures and of the author’s Italian-Istrian family. There are recipes from her childhood, the region’s past and of family and friends who still live beside the Adriatic Coast. Among recipes for semolina dumplings, slow-cooked sardines, beef and pork goulash, stuffed artichokes and apricot strudel are memories of the region and stories of the recipe’s authors: the Italian-Istrians who remained in the region after the 1940s and those who left their ancestral land for new countries, taking their food culture and memories with them.  




Recipes extracted from Istria by Paola Bacchia.

Published by Smith Street Books. RRP $65.00  

About the Author

Vicki Ravlich-Horan

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