A few weeks ago I prepared fennel ‘meatballs’ for the first time, based upon my memory of having them at the great trattoria Tischi Toschi in Messina, Sicily. I was aware that Luca Casablanca, chef and owner of Tischi Toschi, follows my blog, but I had not imagined that he would react to my post. He did, and he left me some constructive feedback. I loved this, as what better way is there to improve upon my cooking then to get feedback from a master? He wrote: “E’ preferibile non passarle nella farina, l’uva passa deve essere quella nera ” Corinto Nero ” nel soffritto mettere cipolla e non aglio, non pomodoro fresco a pezzi bensì salsa di pomodoro, e mi raccomando di metter almeno la metà di parmigiano . Complimenti e grazie del ricordo.”, which means: “It’s better not to put flour on them, the raisins need to be those black ones “Corinto Nero”, use onions instead of garlic for the sauce, not pieces of fresh tomatoes but a tomato sauce, and I recommend to use only half the parmigiano. Well done and thanks for remembering.”
I decided straight away to honor his reaction by making the polpette di finocchietto again, using his suggestions. As you may remember I was not completely happy with the texture of my first attempt, as they were too wet and didn’t keep their shape. I really needed to fix that as well, as without flour they would be even more prone to falling apart. I decided to wring out the fennel greens with a kitchen towel to remove more water from them, and that worked like a charm.
At first I thought it may be hard to find “Corinto Nero” raisins, but when I googled them I found out they are currants that are easily available. The other changes were easy to make, and the improved polpette turned out great. The currants were easier to spot in the polpette, the texture of the ‘skin’ of the polpette was slightly better without the flour, the smooth tomato sauce looked better and the sweetness of the onions worked well in the sauce. I already liked my first version, but this second version was slightly better. Grazie mille, chef Casablanca!
200 grams (.44 lbs) wild fennel greens, or the same weight of fresh dill (1 bunches) and fennel fronds (from 3 small bulbs)
1 Tbsp (10 grams) pine nuts
1 Tbsp (10 grams) “”Corinto Nero” currants, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained and patted dry
50 grams (1.8 oz) fresh bread crumbs
20 grams (4 Tbsp) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes, or 400 grams tomato puree (passata di pomodoro)
1 small onion, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fennel seeds and pine nuts for garnish