The Talisman Italian Cookbook, or Il Talismano della Felicità, is perhaps the most complete, quintessential catalog of Italian specialties translated for the American kitchen. I found this in my grandmothers kitchen the last time I visited her in Florida. Originally written in 1929, the edition she had was adapted and printed by the Ronzoni Macaroni company in 1950. It was also bound backwards. This means when you open the front cover the first page you see is the last page of the recipe index upside down. Never the less, this miss print and marketing promotion aside, the book has some great traditional Italian recipes. In particular, a recipe for “Large meatball home style”. In Italian this is know as polpettone.
The polpettone is a mysterious dish because it is so huge it is quiet elusive to make well. Frank in the East Village does the absolute best one I have ever had. It is a real skill to figure out how to keep it moist, cook it through and crisp the outside all at the same time. My results were mense a mense. (mediocre in english). I kept it moist but it lacked a lot of flavor. Here is what page 93 describes you need to create this monster along with my on the fly modifications.
Large Meatball Home Style (polpettone)
1 1/4 lbs chopped beef (I used beef, pork and veal)
1/8 lbs prosciutto or lean bacon (I skipped this)
4 slices bread soaked in water and squeezed dry (I used milk)
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped dried parsley
1 tsp chopped basil ( I dumped this too)
1/4 tsp salt
8 cups water
1 stalk celery
1 fresh tomato, cut into pieces
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp salt
Instructions: Modifications at the bottom
Mix the chopped beef, bread, egg, cheese, parsley, basil and salt together and shape into a large meatball. In a soup pan, put the water, onion, celery, carrot, tomato, parsley and salt and bring to a boil. When the liquid is boiling, immerse the large meatball and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours. Do not boil at high speed because the meatball will come apart.
After simmering for 2 hours, take the meatball our of the liquid and place on a platter, covering it with another platter so as to press it a a little. When cold, slice and serve with mayonnaise sauce. Save the liquid for a tasty soup. Serves 4.
Of course I did not put mayonnaise on it but used Italian gravy. Recipe here. Yuck. I am sure something was lost in translation there. Before I put the softball into the water I brown the sides of it. Then I simmer for a long time . More than 2 hours. To finish I put it in a separate pan cover in gravy and place under the broiler for 3 min.