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Green-Hearted Meatball (Polpettone a Cuore Verde)

  • SERVINGS: 4-8
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The restaurant Al Fornello-da Ricci in Ceglie Messapico is famous for the variety and splendor of chef Dora Ricci's antipasti, which often include this big meatball. In fact, it's similar to a meat loaf, but unlike any meat loaf your grandmother might have made, this one has a delicate texture and subtle flavor that come from an astute combination of simple ingredients. You could serve this hot as a main course or at room temperature as an antipasto.

  1. 1/2 pound finely ground very lean veal or a half-and-half mixture of ground pork and lean ground beef
  2. 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  3. 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  4. 3 large eggs
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  7. 6 young green chard leaves, stemmed
  8. 1 large carrot
  9. 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
  10. 1 1/2 ounces very thinly sliced caciocavallo or Provolone cheese
  11. 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  12. 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  13. 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground veal with 1 cup of the bread crumbs, the grated cheese, eggs and salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients thoroughly with your hands.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Rinse the chard under cold water until cool. Squeeze out any excess moisture and set aside. Add the carrot to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut the carrot lengthwise in six 1/8 -inch-thick slices.
  3. Combine the flour with the remaining 3 tablespoons bread crumbs and heavily dust a large work surface with the mixture. Pat the ground veal into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the chard leaves over the meat, leaving a border of about 1 inch at the top and bottom. Layer the carrot slices evenly over the chard leaves, then top the carrots with the sliced cheese.
  4. Beginning with a long side, roll up the meat jelly-roll fashion into a long thin sausage with the vegetables and cheese inside, packing the meat. As you roll the sausage, it will lengthen to approximately 16 inches. Pack this with your hands to make it as firm and tight as you can. Cut the sausage in half crosswise. Seal the ends thoroughly with the meat mixture to prevent the cheese from oozing out during cooking. The outsides should be thoroughly dusted with the flour mixture; if necessary, sprinkle a little more flour on the work surface and roll the sausages in it.
  5. In a large heavy nonreactive skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the rosemary sprigs to the pan. Then add the sausages and brown well on all sides over moderately low heat, turning them carefully with two wooden spoons or metal spatulas. When the sausages are thoroughly browned, carefully pour off as much oil from the pan as possible.
  6. Pour half of the wine over the sausages. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes; turn the sausages and add the remaining wine. Cover and cook for 15 minutes longer; if the pan begins to look dry at any point during cooking, add a little water.
  7. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board. Return the skillet to moderately high heat and add 1/2 cup of water. Boil the sauce, scraping up any brown bits, until it has reduced to 3 tablespoons. Strain the sauce to remove the rosemary sprigs. Serve the sausages hot, in slices, or let cool to room temperature and slice as thin as possible. Drizzle the reduced sauce over the slices.
Notes The cheese used in Apulia, though called Pecorino, is a mixutre of ewe's and cow's milk. It is not the sharp cheese known as Pecorino Romano. If you can't find Pecorino from Apulia, Sardinia or Tuscany, use Parmigiano–Reggiano instead.
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