Pallotte Verdi (Kale & Bread Meatless Meatballs)
“I first learned about these meatless meatballs on a visit to an amazing agriturismo (working farm) in Abruzzo. I had one of my top 10 meals ever at La Porta dei Parchi in Anversa degli Abruzzi, though the food was super humble. When I tried their pallotte, made with just bread, milk, eggs, and cheese and lightly fried, I realized how truly special these “meatballs” are. They represent the best of cucina povera—simple peasant cooking born from using what is available. I like making mine with kale (it sneaks in some healthful deliciousness, as well as a nice color!) and fresh chile, and I like the crunch from deep-frying. Don’t skip the fresh tomato sauce, which is bright and acidic and helps the pallotte sing.” - Chef Sarah Grueneberg
From Listen to Your Vegetables by Sarah Grueneberg and Kate Heddings. Copyright © 2022 by Green Mountain Collection, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Makes 18 pallotte; serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons everyday olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh red chile (like finger or Fresno chiles), or 1 tablespoon Calabrian chile paste or sambal oelek
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium bunches of Tuscan kale, washed and stemmed
1 pound Italian-style bread, diced into 1-inch pieces (8 cups)
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
4 ounces Manchego cheese, shredded with the large holes of a box grater (1 cup)
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 quarts neutral oil, for frying
4 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
Fresh Tomato Sauce (page 391)
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 fresh oregano sprigs, for garnish
CHEF SARAH RECOMMENDS: “For best results, I like to use a dense Italian-style loaf of bread here. Look for a filone or Tuscan-style loaf. Most Italian bakeries will have something that will work. Ciabatta will be too light and airy.
I think this is a winner for vegetarians. It’s versatile enough to add any leafy green you like, even broccoli, but I suggest sticking with a green veg so it’s a good match with the cheese.”
1. Make the palotte. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chile and garlic and toast until golden, about 1 minute. Add the kale and cook, stirring often, until wilted and softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with a few pinches of kosher salt. Transfer the kale to a strainer or colander set in a bowl to let any excess liquid drip off for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and roughly chop the kale mixture.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, cover the bread with the milk. Using your hands (I like to wear gloves), combine the bread and milk; you can also pulse them in a food processor until the bread has softened and takes on an oatmeal-like texture. Add the chopped kale and mix to combine. Mix in the eggs, Manchego, pecorino, oregano, and vinegar. If you find the mixture is too wet and sticky, add a bit of dry breadcrumbs.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture (roughly 2 ounces) and roll into balls; place the balls on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until fully chilled; the pallotte should be firm to the touch. These can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days in advance before frying.
4. Finish the pallotte. When you are ready to serve, in a large pot, heat the oil to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a rack or paper towels. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish or bowl. Using your hands, roll the pallotte in the breadcrumbs to coat, then carefully lower 5 or 6 meatballs into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and hot, 4 to 5 minutes; you can check with a thermometer to ensure the balls have reached 160°F. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the cooked pallotte to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pallotte. If they cool too much, feel free to warm them in a 250°F oven before serving. Serve with fresh tomato sauce, topped with grated pecorino, lemon zest, and fresh oregano leaves. You can place the tomato sauce in a casserole dish and place the crispy pallotte on top, or just serve the sauce on the side.