Cheese and Egg Balls

Pallotte cacio e uova (Cheese and Egg Balls)

In Abruzzo, antipasti, snack by Frank Fariello22 Comments

An iconic dish from the Abruzzo region in the cucina povera tradition, pallotte cacio e uova—cheese and egg ballsprobably got its start as a way to use up leftover bits of cheese and stale bread. The mixture is then bound together with egg and formed into balls and, just like meatballs, fried and simmered in tomato sauce. As they simmer, the pallotte swell and absorb the flavor of the sauce. You’ll be surprised how much they actually taste like ‘real’ meatballs. Its a perfect example of how the poor in Italy would take simple, humble ingredients that other might discard and then them into something incredibly tasty.

Originally served as a vegetarian second course to replace costly meat, in these more prosperous times this dish is just as likely to show up as an antipasto.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 as an antipasto or vegetarian secondo

For the balls:

  • 400g (14 oz) of mixed grated cheeses (see Notes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g (4 oz) of best-quality white bread, crusts removed and soaked in water and squeezed dried
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomato sauce (optionally, with sliced or diced red bell pepper addedto the soffritto)

Directions

Mix all of the ingredients indicated above together in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture rest for a good hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to get acquainted and the mixture to firm up.

Pallotte (prep 0)

While the mixture is resting, make your tomato sauce, using any of the Southern Italian-style sauces indicated in our post “Tomato Sauce 101“, made with a soffritto of garlic or garlic and onion, like Sauces #2 or #3. Many recipes call for adding chopped or thinly sliced red bell pepper, a typically Abruzzese addition. (Personally, I’m not very fond of tomato and bell pepper together.)

Take the bowl out of the fridge and form them into ‘meatballs’.

Pallotte (prep 1)

Deep fry the cheese and egg balls, or shallow fry them in olive oil, until they are nice and golden brown all over. Make sure the balls are well spaced, as they tend to stick together, especially when they first start cooking, as they cheese starts to melt and before the egg binding takes hold.

Pallotte (prep 2) (Cheese and Egg Balls)

Transfer the fried balls to the tomato sauce and let them simmer there for a good 15-20 minutes. The balls will swell a bit as they cook and take on an almost spongy texture.

Pallotte (prep 3)

Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipes for pallotte cacio e uova typically call for a mixture of sharp, aged and milder, semi-aged cheeses, and cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. The local pecorino abruzzese, of the relatively mild semi-aged variety, is de rigueur. A typical mixture might include 200g of pecorino abruzzese, 100g of Parmesan or grana, and 100g of a sharper fully aged pecorino, like pecorino romano. If you can’t find pecorino abruzzese, which is awfully hard to find outside Italy, the much easier to find pecorino toscano can substitute nicely. I wouldn’t sweat the cheeese too much—remember, this is a poor man’s dish, invented as a way of using up scraps of cheese, so you can do the same. Hey, I even read one online recipe by an ex pat abruzzese living in the UK who likes to add Cheddar to her pallotte cacio e uova.

Like meatballs, these cheese and egg balls are also very nice eaten by themselves, fried but without simmering in tomato sauce. Eaten that way, they become ‘finger food’ suitable for serving with cocktails. Just make sure to make them a bit smaller and fry them rather darker than you would otherwise, so they are firmer and fully cooked through.

 

Pallotte cacio e uova (Cheese and Egg Balls)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: Serves 4-6

Pallotte cacio e uova (Cheese and Egg Balls)

Ingredients

    For the balls:
  • 400g (14 oz) of mixed grated cheeses (see Notes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g (4 oz) of best-quality white bread, crusts removed and soaked in water and squeezed dried
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • One batch home-made tomato sauce (optionally, with sliced or diced red bell pepper added to the soffritto)

Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients indicated above together in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture rest for a good hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to get acquainted and the mixture to firm up.
  2. While the mixture is resting, make your tomato sauce, using any of the Southern Italian-style sauces indicated in our post "Tomato Sauce 101", made with a soffritto of garlic or garlic and onion, like Sauces #2 or #3. Many recipes call for adding chopped or thinly sliced red bell pepper, a typically Abruzzese addition. (Personally, I'm not very fond of tomato and bell pepper together.)
  3. Take the bowl out of the fridge and form them into 'meatballs'.
  4. Deep fry the cheese and egg balls, or shallow fry them in olive oil, until they are nice and golden brown all over. Make sure the balls are well spaced, as they tend to stick together, especially when they first start cooking, as they cheese starts to melt and before the egg binding takes hold.
  5. Transfer the fried balls to the tomato sauce and let them simmer there for a good 15-20 minutes. The balls will swell a bit as they cook and take on an almost spongy texture.
  6. Serve immediately.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2013/10/20/pallotte-cacio-e-uova-cheese-and-egg-balls/
Frank FarielloPallotte cacio e uova (Cheese and Egg Balls)

Comments

  1. Lilli

    This has to be the most authentic italian cooking page I’ve seen! I didn’t even know people KNEW what polpette di uova were! In Sicily – thats what we called it – and here my Mom called it cheese balls… My daughter loves them and every time I make them – they don’t come out right because you know – there are no measurements in recipes – so it’s , eggs, cheese, bread, garlic – good luck. lol.

    I’m very happy I found you!

  2. Simona

    I must admit I had not heard of this dish. It sounds and looks very nice. Your description reminded me that when my mother made polpette with leftover bollito, the first day we ate them plain, still warm from the frying pan, crisp outside and soft inside. Then, she served the leftover in tomato sauce and by then they were soft all the way through.
    P.S. Personally, I’m not very fond of tomato and bell pepper together either ;)

    1. Author
      Frank

      Ooh, that sounds so good, Simona! I happen to have some leftover bollito in the fridge right now, I might give that a try tonight…

  3. Michelle - Majella Home Cooking

    Aren’t these to die for, Frank? Someone in Abruzzo told me they’re nicknamed “i sospiri” because of the sighs they invoke. Thanks for clarifying the fact that it doesn’t really matter what kind of cheese you use When I initially posted a recipe for these and included Pecorino Romano as an ingredient (more accessible in the US), I got some pretty sharp criticism from Abruzzesi who are very proud of their nearly-impossible-to-find Pecorino di Farindola!! Cari saluti, Michelle

    1. Author
      Frank

      They sure are. I’m sure that pecorino from Abruzzo makes it even more to die for, but those of us writing for an audience outside Italy have to make some compromises, don’t we? Even if it scandalizes the purists back home….

  4. domenicacooks

    These meatless “meatballs” are making a comeback in Abruzzo, Frank. I had them at several different restaurants ~ fancy ones, no less ~ this past summer when I was there. Coincidentally, I had mentioned these last weekend when I was visiting my folks in NJ. I had made them a batch of the eggplant “meatballs” from my new book and so I asked my mom about polpette ‘cacio e ove.’ Oddly, she had never heard of them, even though she is an Abruzzo native. Maybe because she was from a fairly well-to-do family? Who knows. That’s the beauty of Italian cooking ~ hyper local, and always something new (or old) to be discovered. I make a similar recipe, which I call “egg cutlets” but I found it years ago in an old issue of Gourmet. A reader had submitted in the letters to the editor section of the magazine. My kids loved them when they were little. Cheers amico.

    1. Author
      Frank

      Everything old becomes new again, as they saying goes! Or, more to the point, what is humble becomes chic with time. I’ve also asked a friend of mine who is Abruzzese about these as well. She came from a humbler background so her family may have made them. Still waiting for an answer!

  5. PolaM

    My mom used to whip up something really similar after making cotolette. She would mix the leftover crumbs with the leftover eggs and add enough grated cheese to bind the whole batter and then she would fry them with the cotolette. Us kids used to fight over those breadballs!

  6. Chiara

    è incredibile quanto una ricetta semplice possa essere assolutamente perfetta! Le farò presto, grazie Frank !

  7. Enzo Sultini

    I am “molto contento” of having stumbled on to your web site.
    Having been raised in a typical Italian family, I though I knew just about everything about “La Cucina Italiana”. However, you are a source of constant amazement at the dishes you’ve posted. I only wish I had a stomach large enough to try ALL of your offerings.
    Ciao!!!

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