Comfort of Meatballs

There’s something very comforting about meatballs. They are, in fact, comfort food, and whether one ate them as part of spaghetti and meatballs or in a meatball hero as a child, they remain the paragon of comfort. In my research over decades concerning the cuisines of the Mediterranean in general and Italian in particular–the kafta of the Arabs or the polpette of the Italians–I’ve come across a good number of interesting and exciting recipes for meatballs.  Here is one I just love to make as it is surprising for diners.  They are called subrics, a veal croquette made with apple and walnuts. Sometimes, they are called polpettine dolci (sweet little meatballs) and they are a specialty of the province of Cuneo in the Piedmont region of Italy.  The name subrics is French, although the origin of the French subrics appears to be Polish for a kind of dessert that resembled a puff pancake or galette according to Urbain Dubois and Émile Bernard’s La cuisine classique published in 1868.  The famous French chef Escoffier has a recipe for subrics which are spinach puffs. In Piedmont, they refer to this light croquette, a word that usually means an elongated meatball.  Generally, they are a kind of cross between a croquette and a dumpling and made from light meat such as veal, veal brain, and chicken or vegetables, especially spinach.

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Meatballs
Cuisine: Piedmontese (Italian)
Serves: 4
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or clarified butter
  • ⅓ cup Barolo wine or other hearty red wine
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Walnut pieces for garnish
  1. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, veal, apple, salt, and pepper. Knead this mixture together very well with both hands until homogeneous. Form into 12 meatballs with wet hands so the meat won’t stick. Dredge the meatballs in the flour, tapping off any excess, and set aside.
  2. In a large nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium heat then cook, shaking the pan and turning the meatballs so they don’t stick, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, dissolve the sugar in the wine and add to the pan and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes or until syrupy. Serve immediately with the walnuts as garnish.


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