Polpettine are tiny Italian meatballs. Due to the fact that polpettine are they are not widely found in Italy, some Italians and Italian-Americans have come to believe that meatballs are not served in Italy. This is definitely not the case. Polpettine are quite common in the Province of Teramo in Italy’s Abruzzo Region of Central Italy. They are typically served in a red tomato sauce on top of a pasta very similar to spaghetti. This pasta has the unique characteristic of being made with a kitchen instrument know as a “chitarra”. The dish of meatballs and this pasta is sometimes referred to as “chitarra e polpettine.”
A good number of people from Teramo and Valle San Giovanni who have emigrated abroad and it is not very difficult to find this dish served outside of the Italy. Many restaurants outside of Teramo have meatballs on the menu. Most of these are the larger meatballs which in Italy go by the name “polpettoni.” Everyon who visits Italy’s Province of Teramo should try to sample this well known taste sensation.
There are several polpettine varieties and derivations. Most recipes call for a dish that is made in the following manner. The reciped starts with some combination of minced beef, lamb, or pork. Frequently, but not always, some vegetables such as onions, celery, and perhaps carrots are added. Small portions of this mixture are formed into tiny balls and are then fried in an open skillet. These balls (”polpettine”) are then added to a tomato-based pastas sauce and cooked for some period of time up to several hours. The making of polpettine can require several hours of a chef’s diligent labors.
Some people claim that the best polpettine in the world come from the small village of Valle San Giovanni, a frazione (suburb) of the provincial capital of Teramo in Italy’s rugged Abruzzo Region. It is likely the case that the cooks from this quaint small village have been making this traditional dish for hundreds of years. Some say the secret is the slow cooking method used by these “vallarolo” (a native of Valle San Giovanni) cooks. Others claim that the secret ingredient is the fresh water flowing down from a stream called Fiumicello। Whatever the reason, the polpettine of this town are definitely considered to be some of the best in the world. The dish is often served as one course during the traditional Sunday luncheon meal. Other villages known for the making of polpettine include Varano and Travazzano, both of which are located near near the provincial capital of Teramo.
The owners of the Italian Kitchen in Pennsville, NJ along with the Roman Pantry in Penns Grove, NJ have been known to make this dish for family members who come to visit from Valle Soprana.