The smell of coffee, peaches, meatballs

Growing up in the south of Italy means knowing the sea like your best friend. It is there, listening to your thoughts and comforting you with the sound of the waves rushing on the coast, hugging you with the gentle touch of the clear water, showing all its greatness below the dark surface.

It also means to be well aware of tides, if it is safe to sail a boat if the wind blows in a certain direction, where and when you have the best chances to go fishing.

The pungent smell of the sea, hated by most, is something that will always remind me of home and my previous life on the Mediterranean coast. It is interesting this thing about smells: what for somebody is just a fishy smell, to me is my childhood, my holidays, my place to think about an important decision.

My Italian home smells of fresh peaches and coffee, I remember waking up late when I was a student and looking forward to a delicious brunch made of fruits and espresso.

But on a Sunday, I would wake up with something even more tempting: the tomato sauce bubbling in the pot, the soffritto aroma still in the room, and the polpette sizzling on the pan. It is meatballs day, a glorious day where families, pre-Covid, used to gather together at lunch and enjoy these simple, yet delicious, little balls of meat, cheese and scrumptiousness (is that a word?).

Fun fact: Meatballs in Italy are a main, they are not served with spaghetti.

Today meatballs are always associated to Italy, but what not everybody knows is that they were originally invented in Persia. Persians had the koftas, little balls of minced meat, that they introduced to the Arab population when they conquered the Middle-East. When the Arabs conquered Spain, this dish became part of the Spanish culture, with the creation of the albondigas we all know today.

But the concept of meatballs, that can be summarised as minced meat flavoured with additional ingredients, is actually present in several culinary cultures: in Portugal, they are called almondegas, and they are made of minced beef, chorizo and spices; in Sweden they eat kotbullars, made of minced beef, pork, veal, to which they add onions and bread soaked in milk; the Norwegians lihapullat are quite similar but they also include reindeer meat.

Even in Italy itself, polpette are prepared differently in each region: in Milan, they are fried in butter; in Rome, they are served with tomato sauce; in Bologna they mix minced beef, pork and mortadella; in Trentino they are prepared with mashed potatoes and smoked pancetta.

They all sound delicious, and I can guarantee you that within the same city, each family will have a different recipe. So here is my favourite recipe, that I make on those Sundays when I miss the polpette ritual:

Ingredients for 12 polpette

-minced beef, 100g

-stale bread, 50g

-grated parmesan,30g

-milk, couple of tablespoons

-sausage meat, 100g

-egg, 1

-pinch of salt and pepper

-olive oil, 4 tablespoons

-parsley and oregano to spread on top

-tomato sauce, 170g

-mushrooms, 300g

-frozen peas, 100g

-mozzarella, 1


  1. Put the bread in a blender to make some fine crumbs
  2. Mix together the breadcrumbs, meat, parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper
  3. Gradually add the milk, until you get a soft consistency. You might need to add a little bit more of milk, depending on the bread
  4. Take a tablespoon of the mixture, and form a little ball – keep doing it until you used up all the mixture
  5. Warm up the oil in a pan, and add the meatballs – let them fry a couple of minutes on each side
  6. Put the meatballs aside, and add the mushrooms and peas in the pan for 6-8 minutes
  7. Once cooked, add the tomato sauce and the meatballs, and let everything cook for 15 minutes at low temperature
  8. Preheat the oven at 200Β°
  9. Scatter the mozzarella on top of the meatballs
  10. Put the pan in the oven for 5-10 minutes
  11. Spread parsley and oregano on top and serve

56 thoughts on “The smell of coffee, peaches, meatballs

  1. Oh, I loved reading about your childhood memories! I also recognize the briny smell of the sea and enjoy it. I also grew up next to the water. Your meatballs look nice and savory. Are they heavy on the tummy?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are so beautiful! Me and my husband just came back from Sicily where we were privileged to learn how to make Sicilian(palermo way) meatballs for secondi dish.. What a delicious meal especially for autumn days:) I feel like I might try your recipe this weekend! Thanks for sharing ❀️

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nothing better than to wake up with these beautiful flavors πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹ Living by the sea is my dream 😍 I hope one day will become reality!
    The β€œtraditional” Italian pasta with meatballs πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ oh my…
    Jokes apart, I always loved the meatballs πŸ˜‹


  4. I enjoyed reading the background to your recipe. There’s nothing like the wonderful aroma of tomato sauce being prepared in the kitchen. We always make Bolognese throughout the year and a simple marinara in the summer with fresh tomatoes. Being from the north of Italy, I, too, fry meatballs on the stove before baking them in the oven. My family never served meatballs with pasta either. That developed in the States in Italian-American recipes. I do like the ingredients in your meatball recipe and will give them a try.


    1. Ciao Roz! Thanks for your message πŸ™‚ It is so good to have your own sauce, isn’t it? I like pasta al forno with mini polpettine, they are so good! But in general I agree with you, not really my thing! Let me know if you like this recipe πŸ™‚ buona serata!


  5. In Czechia we also have ‘meatballs like only your grandma makes’. They are called ‘karbanatky’ and are mostly beef mince. They are served usually with sweetish tomato sauce or just with mashed potatoes. Worth a try next time you visit the middle of Europe! x

    Liked by 1 person

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