Pallotte Cac'e Ove

Pallotte Cac’e Ove


Pallotte cac’e ove from Abruzzo


My father is from a tiny village nestled in the rugged mountains of Abruzzo. Growing up, he was quite poor and meat was a luxury his family could seldom afford. This recipe is a prime example of “la cucina povera” in Abruzzo and was borne from the necessity of the region’s poor peasants to improvise with what little they had. “Pallotte cac’e ove” are “polpette” made from bread, eggs and cheese and then simmered in tomato sauce, and may actually be better than their richer, meatier cousin. Both a reminder of and a tribute to Abruzzo’s arduous past, this dish is served as an antipasto in “trattorie tipiche” and “agriturismi” throughout the region.

Women from the mountains Abruzzo with the traditional "conga."   My own grandmother used to walk miles with a conga on her head to transport water from the river,

Women from the mountains Abruzzo with the traditional “conga.” My own grandmother used to walk miles with a conga on her head to transport water from the river,

Pallotte Cac’e Ove

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

A loaf of day-old Italian bread, torn into one-inch pieces

1 cup of whole milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon of salt and several grindings of fresh black pepper

1 cup of grated Pecorino (preferably from Abruzzo but good quality Pecorino Romano is a fine substitute)

1 tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary

1 small clove of garlic, minced

½ cup of more of fine unseasoned breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of homemade tomato sauce

Place the torn bread in a wide bowl, pour the milk over it and mix well, until the bread is covered by the milk (add a bit more milk if it seems dry, but not so much that the bread is floating!). Allow the bread and milk mixture to sit for several hours, until the bread is completely saturated and the milk is no longer visible. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, cheese, parsley, rosemary, garlic and ½ cup of breadcrumbs and mix together with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated. Try to form a bit of the mixture into a 2-inch ball – if it won’t stay together, add additional breadcrumbs, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s a consistency that will allow the “pallotte” to stay together. Form the remainder of the mixture into balls and set aside on a tray until you’re ready to fry them. Heat the tomato sauce in a large pot until it reaches a slow, steady simmer. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan until shimmering and add the “pallotte,” one batch at a time. Fry for about 2 minutes per side, until they are golden in color. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and continue to fry the remainder of the “pallotte” in the same manner until they’re all done. Gently transfer the fried “pallotte” to the pot of tomato sauce and allow them to simmer at a slow, steady pace for about half hour, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. Serve immediately or reheat prior to serving (they will keep for several hours and are actually very good the next day.) Buon appetito!

Eggs and cheese balls from Abruzzo

Eggs and cheese balls from Abruzzo

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17 Responses to Pallotte Cac’e Ove

  1. Antonette January 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    My husband comes from Matera and one year when we went to visit his family, we had similar “polpette” at his cousin’s restaurant!! Of course he gave me the recipe..I serve them without the tomato sauce as he did and with a light basil tomato sauce sometimes! La cucina povera is the way to go..keep sharing! 🙂

  2. Majella Home Cooking January 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Siamo d’accordo! Do you know that Matera is a place that has been on my “list” for years? I am dying to visit. A few years ago, we stayed in Ostuni in Puglia, about an hour away from Matera. We were going to make a side trip, but the kids (who were 4, 3 and 1 at the time) were SCREAMING their heads off in the car!! We had to abandon the plan and head to the beach instead. I’ll get there at some point!

  3. Antonette February 1, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    WOW! I have been to Ostuni..beautiful..we stayed at a beach resort in Puglia one summer and took a day trip to Ostuni!! You should definitely go to Matera it is a great experience and the food is definitely worth it, they really cook with the “cucina povera” in mind…ever since Mel Gibson shot the movie Passion of Christ in Matera it has become popular with tourists!

  4. Teresa Cecere Mura February 28, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Love your page! My mother and grandmother (Nonnina) are from Orsogna in Abruzzi! We make these pallotte,,aka cheese balls. There are so many “poor” dishes that are delicacies today!

    • Majella Home Cooking February 28, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Grazie e benvenuta, Teresa! Please feel free to share some of your “cucina povera” favorites with us! The level of culinary genius that these poor Southern Italian peasants were able to achieve with the little bit they had never ceases to amaze me. A presto! Michelle

  5. Daniela June 18, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Hi, I am Italian (from Puglia) and my partner is from Abruzzo 🙂 I am writing this recipe down and will make him a surprise 😉 Thank you for sharing!

  6. Sergio Pomante June 18, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Nice story, but Pecorino Romano!!!!!!!!! With Abruzzo producing some of the best pecorino cheese in the whole of Italy, why did you choose this to put this in a traditional Abruzzese recipe?

    • Majella Home Cooking June 18, 2013 at 8:49 am #

      Benvenuto e grazie! Now, allow me to defend and explain 🙂 – most of my blog readers are from the US where Pecorino Romano is the most widely available sheep’s milk cheese. However, I’ve changed the recipe to simply call for Pecorino 😉

  7. enzo iuvale June 18, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Hello, thank you for tasty recipe, would you tell me please where is the photo was taken, perhaps Reduced, Balsorano, AQ italy? I was born there, thanks 😉
    Enzo iuvale

    • Majella Home Cooking June 18, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      Ciao Enzo, Grazie e benvenuto. The photo was taken in San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore which is near my father’s village, Salle. I hope you stop by my blog again! A presto, Michelle

  8. enzo iuvale June 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi, thanks very much for your kindness and the information you’ve provided, I still wanted to tell you that although the photo has not been done in my country, in every face I saw pictures of the characters very strong people known to me. thank you again. go ahead with your work of spreading the culture abbruzzese

    • Majella Home Cooking June 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      Grazie per la sua gentilezza, Enzo. I hope you visit by blog again soon. I’ll be in Abruzzo all summer and will be posting about my experiences there. A presto, Michelle

  9. Frank @Memorie di Angelina October 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I just posted on these beauties. It’s amazing how much they taste like ‘real’ meatballs, only I actually think I like them better! Lighter but with just as much flavor.

    I like the idea of the rosemary— haven’t seen that in other recipes but the idea appeals to me! Cheers, Frank

    • Majella Home Cooking October 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

      I was just about to sit down and catch up on my blogs! I love “pallotte” – my friend Lida in Abruzzo adds a pinch to hers, a little spin on her grandmother’s recipe. They are so light and highly addictive. A presto, Michelle

  10. Roberta April 13, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    My father was from Casalbordino and our family loved these. I think they are better than meatballs. None of my other Italian friends had ever heard of them. Thanks for posting this.

  11. Marco Di Biase April 13, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

    Born in Philadelphia, but father came from Notaresco, Mom from Moro d’ oro. Mom made this dish often! Delighted to get recipe. Thanks! Have relatives in Notaresco.

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