SPEZZATINO!!!! The Italian word for STEW…although the word STUFATO means stew also, don’t ask, I don’t have an answer for that. I think SPEZZATINO sounds nicer. On the island of Sicily they have a SPEZZATINO culture, over in the Palermo region where they stew meatballs with potatoes. Sounds like heaven. A few years ago my friend Rose Marie Trapani, a native of the Palermo, Sicily region talked about her Mamma’s Meatball and Potato stew. I had to make it. I loved everything about it. In Sicily they also use the term SPEZZATINO AGGRESSATO DI POLPETTE CON PATATE…more new Italian and Sicilian words to increase your culinary vocabulary!! I like!!! However, the stew I made last night was BASED on the principles of the Spezzatino Aggressato but I must drop AGGRESSATO from my recipe title. My meatballs in this recipe are made from Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage Meat. Into the stew I add Broccoli Rabe, Onions, Potatoes, diced Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Borlotti Beans and a nice red wine from Sicily, from REGALEALI, a NERO D’AVOLA. What flavors in this stew! Notice I say Sicilian Style only because I created this dish in my kitchen with things from my pantry and fridge that went well together, it’s not a bona fide Sicilian dish. I try to be careful about my Recipe titles. When I had a bowl of the Spezzatino the next day I added some ricotta to the mix. WOW. Not only did it taste better like all stews do the second day but the ricotta was a very tasty addition! I’d advise making this on one day, and serving it the next. Truly remarkable Italian-Siclian flavors. It has that “Grandma” taste..are you with me here? Capisci??? Good. Now we can start to cook.
First, we make the POLPETTE DI SALSICCE…the Sausage meatballs, made a bit smaller than a Sunday Sauce meatball.
TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, prep and cooking SERVES: 4
1 LB LOOSE ITALIAN SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT
1 BEATEN LARGE EGG
1 CUP STALE ITALIAN BREAD, SOAKED IN MILK AND SQUEEZED
2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY
1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC
1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PROVOLONE OR CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE
1/8 CUP RED WINE ( A RED SICILIAN, LIKE NERO D’AVOLA FROM REGALEALI IS FANTASTIC)
(do not add any salt to these meatballs as the sausage meat is already salted/seasoned and we are adding grated cheese)
Blend the garlic, parsley, bread with the beaten egg. When combined, add the sausage meat and blend everything until it is well mixed. Let it sit for 15 minutes covered, then form into small balls. Fry the balls in Olive Oil. Reserve in a bowl. You will need to cook in batches. Deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of the Red Wine scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meatballs.
for the SPEZZATINO:
2 TBS. OLIVE OIL
1 DICED MEDIUM ONION
6 QUARTERED CREMINI MUSHROOMS
2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
1 DICED AND SEEDED TOMATO
2 CUPS of GREENS (chopped Swiss Chard, broccoli Rabe, Turnip Tops, Escarole, Spinach)
1 CUP of diced peeled POTATOES
2 CUPS OF COOKED BORLOTTI OR CANNELLINI BEANS
1 CUP OF RED WINE
2 CUPS OF CHICKEN STOCK
SALT, PEPPER TO TASTE
In a large heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil. Add the onions,mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and then add the potatoes. Let this cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. Now add the tomato and the greens. Cook for 5 minutes, Add the garlic and when fragrant (about 2 minutes) add the beans.
Mix. Now add the wine first and bring to a boil. The aroma is amazing at this point. Stir and then add the chicken stock and add stir. Add the Sausage Meatballs and any of the liquid that has collected in the bowl of sausage balls. Gently stir and bring to a boil again. Then reduce to a simmer.Now let this simmer until much of the liquid is reduced. You want a sort of thick stew here rather than a soup (and that’s why it’s a SPEZZATINO!!!). This process should take about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on this so it gets to the right consistency. Frequently stir the pot. When it’s done let it sit at least 3 hours before serving. Next day is even better.
Before serving, drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, peperoncino if you like, and of course grated Parmigiano or Pecorino. A hearty bowl of flavors with a Sicilian Twist. Potatoes and Meatballs in a stew…Sicilian genius and comfort food. A few other ingredients and it’s Minestrone meats Sicilian Meatball Stew…fantastico!!! A nice Sicilian Red, like the Nero D’Avola you used in the Spezzatino goes great with it…