Wine Diner Inspiration Grapes and Meatballs – Polpettine con le Uve
Today’s recipe is inspired by a meal I had years ago in Italy’s wine country – Montalcino. However, it could just as easily appear on a menu in Provence, where grapes are grown locally, and meatballs (boulettes de viande) are popular.
The Italian dish, Polpettine con le Uve, not only tasted good — it was the beautiful presentation that captivated me. Small meatballs and grapes clustered on the plate to resemble a bunch of grapes. I recreated the dish (recipe below), and it has excellent flavour; the combination of veal with the grapes is unexpected, subtle and – in a word – incredible. Also, it’s stunning on the plate! Head to Cocoa & Lavender for the original article and beautiful photos.
We were lucky to have Susan and Towny of Provence WineZine in town to share the meal and wine they brought, which paired well with the dish! It is the 2018 Pinot Noir from John Malkovich’s winery Les Quelles de La Coste.
Polpettine con le Uve (Meatballs and Grapes)
- 2 lbs Green Grapes large, seedless
- 1 lb Ground Veal or lean pork, beef, or a combination
- 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs fresh
- 2 tsp Thyme Leaves fresh
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/8 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1 Egg
- 1/4 cup Flour
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus additional for grapes
- 1/4 cup Dry White Wine
- a few Fresh Grape Leaves for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Wash 52 of the grapes and toss them in olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 15 minutes. Set aside — you may not use all 52, but you can choose the best-looking ones.
- Purée the remaining grapes and strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing hard on the solids to get as much juice as possible. Set juice aside and discard solids.
- Mix the veal, breadcrumbs, thyme, salt, pepper, and egg in a medium bowl. Form 32 to 40 1-inch meatballs by rolling small bits of the mixture between the palms of your hands. (Although wetting your hands will make it easier, do not do this as it will add unwanted moisture to the meatballs.) Refrigerate them uncovered until ready to use.
- Roll the meatballs in the flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large 14-inch skillet, and when hot, carefully place all the meatballs into the pan; do not crowd them. After 1 minute, begin shaking the pan to loosen the meatballs. Brown all sides – approximately 5 minutes.
- Add roasted grapes to the skillet and stir for a minute. Add the reserved grape juice and wine and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer and, when thickened, arrange the meatballs and grapes on plates to form “bunches” of grapes. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish the top with grape leaves if using. (Other non-poisonous leaves can work: geranium leaves, flat-leaf parsley, or even paper leaves intended for cheese boards.) I recommend serving side dishes on a separate plate to keep the integrity of the presentation.