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Polpette al lemone

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Polpette al lemone (or Lemon Meatballs, if you will) made by combining lemon with pork, veal, or chicken, or any combination of the two, and finished with a white wine sauce is a lighter approach to meatballs. It is perfect for outdoor dining accompanied by spring or summer vegetables.


Notes on Ingredients


Not every meatball recipe requires tomatoes. In this preparation, the zest of the lemon is added to the meatballs and lemon juice into a white wine sauce. (BTW, since the zest is used, you might prefer organic lemons.) This provides an acidic accent instead of the tomatoes. It seems a perfect fit for a sunny day. Thinking of Italy. And thinking of the abundance of Amalfi Lemons on the trees.

Amalfi lemon on tree
Amalfi Lemon

Vegetable Stock

I prefer a light vegetable stock for this dish, such as my market stock, made from the stems and cuttings of vegetables collected in my freezer.

Bread Crumbs

Seemingly a small thing, but your choice of bread crumbs can change the dish’s texture. Many prefer to trim the crust, I prefer to leave it on and allow the crumbs to soak a little longer to soften.

Notes on Techniques

Our analysis of Italian meatballs reinforced the technique of dusting the meatballs with flour before cooking is very common in Italian cooking. In Polpette al Lemone, it transforms into a really nice sauce.

I will say this recipe creates quite a few dirty dishes. (A bowl for the bread, a bowl for the meatballs themselves, a plate to set the rolled meatballs on, and one more to roll the meatballs in the flour.) Otherwise, this recipe is very easy to execute.

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Polpette al limone

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Hold the tomatoes, sqeeze the lemon


For the meatballs

  • 1 pound (450g) ground pork or veal or chicken (or combinations see note 1)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 thick slices of dry bread (crusty Italian or French bread preferred) processed into crumbs
  • milk, as necessary to soak the bread
  • ½ cup (~50g) grated Parmesan
  • zest of one half of a lemon
  • 1-3 tbsp parsley, freshly chopped, (see note 2)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • flour, for dusting

For the white wine sauce


  1. Soak the dried bread crumbs in a small bowl covered with just enough milk. Let it absorb for about 5 to 10 minutes. The resting time is more when the crust is used.
  2. When the bread is ready, add the meat, egg, cheese, lemon zest, and parsley to a medium-sized bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Lightly squeeze excess milk from the bread and add to the meat mixture. Mix until the ingredients are homogeneously spread. Form into medium size balls about the size of a small peach. The quantities listed should give 12 meatballs.
  3. Prepare a plate of flour for dusting the meatballs.
  4. Using a medium saucepan, start the sauce by drizzling olive oil on the bottom and adding the shallots. While the shallots are cooking, roll the meatballs in a plate of flour to lightly coat. Cook shallots until a light golden brown, remove and set aside. 
  5. Brown the meatballs completely on all sides 2 to 5 minutes. 
  6. Add the shallots back to the pan. Add the white wine to the pan and let evaporate. Add the vegetable stock to the pan, bring to a simmer. Cover and then let simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. When done remove meatballs to a serving plate. At this point, if a thicker sauce is needed, simmer uncovered until the desired thickness is reached. Taste the sauce to determine if any salt or pepper is needed. Add lemon juice to the sauce.
  8. Serve sauce on top of meatballs with chopped parsley.


Note 1: Ground beef may be used. Preferably mixed with pork to lighten the taste.

Note 2:  Parsley is preferred, but fresh Oregano or thyme may be substituted.

Note 3: Instead of shallots, green onions or a sweet onion (like Vidalia) may be substituted.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 644Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 167mgSodium: 942mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 49g

Calculated Nutrition is estimated.

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