In the United States, we have this idea that Italian meatballs are best piled on top of a huge mound of spaghetti noodles. Remember the song, spaghetti with meatballs, all covered with cheese? Well, the only way I’ve come across polpette en Italia is on their own, usually in a simple, tart pomodoro sauce. I’ve eaten polpette everywhere from Bologna to Brindisi, and while there are subtle differences in each region’s traditional recipe, not once have I seen a menu offering spaghetti con polpette.
Perhaps they serve spaghetti with meatballs somewhere in the country (and if you know where, please feel free to chime in), but according to my friend’s mom Angela, an incredible home cook in the Puglia region, meatballs are generally served on their own in the second piatti (second course), while pasta is served separately for the primi piatti course, or first course.
These days I’m in Firenze, or Florence, so the recipe I’m going to share with you is uniquely fiorentino. This dish comes from the kind woman who runs the hotel I’m staying at, who, when it came up in conversation that I was writing this post, was all too excited to share a bit of her family’s culinary history with the rest of the world. Her only condition was that I not mention her name and that I should inform you all that American meatballs are missing the necessary addition of cured pork, and that on all of her trips to the states, she had to stop ordering meatballs because they were too bland for her. So, there you go. More bacon!