Pallotte cacio e ova, literally “cute balls made with cheese and eggs” is the dish that best represents the traditional cuisine of Abruzzo, a region of Central Italy.
Midway between the Adriatic sea and the mountains, Abruzzo is graced with long, white sand beaches and the highest peak in the Apennines; its landscapes are breath-taking, and the territory is divided between four national parks and nature reserves.
This dish was born in the small mountain villages where the shepherds used to spend Winter; part of a poor cuisine that aimed to make the most of what little food was available, the pallotte are an original way to recycle old bread.
Makes: 10 pallotte | Preparation time: 15 mins | Cooking time: 30 mins
- Pecorino, grated: 200 g
- Bread, stale: 50 g
- Tomato sauce: 1 l
- Eggs: 2
- Onions: 1
- Basil, fresh: 4 or 5 leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): 2 tbsp
- Salt: half a tsp
- Milk: as needed
- Breadcrumbs: as needed
- Parsley, fresh: to taste
- Pepper: to taste
- Peanut oil, for deep-frying
Roughly cut the stale bread in pieces and put it in a bowl. Pour milk over the bread and let it soak for at least 10 minutes.
Tip: The bread must be stale, but not too old: one should ideally use a loaf that has been baked the day before.
Beat up the eggs in a different bowl. Finely chop the parsley and add it to the eggs, along with the pecorino and the basil. Remove the pieces of bread from the milk and squeeze them thoroughly to get rid of the milk before adding them to the eggs, as well.
Mix the ingredients until the texture of the dough is homogeneous and smooth; if the dough is too dry, add another egg. If instead the dough is too liquid, add more pecorino or some breadcrumbs. Leave the dough to rest for about 10 minutes, so that the different flavours are tied together.
Wet your fingertips and start rolling the cheeseballs, keeping in mind that they should not be smaller than half of the palm of your hands.
Heat up the peanut oil in a large and deep pan, then as soon as the oil is ready proceed to deep frying a few pallotte at a time. Turn them on all sides to ensure they cook through. It should take about 5 minutes for each cheeseball.
When the pallotte are fried, leave them to rest on a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.
Dice the onion in small cubes. Warm up the extra virgin olive oil in a pan and brown the onion, then add the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes; if it thickens too much, dilute it with a glass of water or vegetable broth.
Put the pallotte in the pan with the tomato sauce and leave them to cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve warm.