Loretta Sebastiani

Loretta Sebastiani
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Orecchiette with meatballs
( Orecchiette con polpettine di cavallo )

Authentic Italian recipe from Apulia

difficulty: medium

time: preparation: 30 minutes
cooking: 30 minutes

calories: 581 (kCal)

Ingredients / Serves 6

  • 600 g (1 1/3 lb) fresh orecchiette (Italian pasta)
  • 500 g (1.1 lb) horse meat, minced
  • 40 g (1 1/2oz) stale bread
  • 1 egg
  • 30 g (1 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30 g (1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) vegetable stock
  • 100 ml (4 fl oz - 1/2 C) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Pepper, if you like
medium difficulty
preparation: 30 minutes
cooking: 30 minutes
How many calories in a serving?
Calories: 581 (kcal) 30 % - 2430 (kJ)
Protein: 15.3 (g) 31 % GDA
Total fat: 20.5 (g) 30 % GDA
Total carbohydrate: 89.3 (g) 34 % GDA
Sugars: 5.6 (g) 7 % GDA

Download free PDF version (206 download).

Orecchiette is a type of fresh Italian pasta. It is made with durum-wheat semolina.
It's a typical pasta in Apulia and in the south of Italy but nowadays you can buy orecchiette everywhere.
There are a lot of Apulia recipes with orecchiette. We're going to tell you how to prepare orecchiette dressed with meatballs cooked in the tomato sauce at home.

Prepare meatballs. In this recipe we use horse meat but you can use the meat you prefer for your meatballs. Look at the photo for their size; they must be little.
Soak the stale bread for some minutes and then squeeze of its soaking water very well. Combine the egg lightly beaten, meat, squeezed bread and Parmesan in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper (if you like it). Mix all the ingredients: you must obtain a soft mixture. If it is too soft add other Parmesan. Give the right shape to your meatballs, dip them into the flour and put in a non-stick frying pan. Fry lightly them on all sides and remove them with a skimming ladle.
Put meatballs apart on kitchen paper to remove the excess of fat. Remember to put apart 3 tablespoons of olive oil: you need it for the sauce!
You have to add meatballs to the sauce in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile sauté the garlic cloves in the remaining olive oil in a second non-stick frying pan. Remove the garlic cloves and add the tomato paste diluted in the hot stock. Let the sauce cook for about 10 minutes and then add meatballs; cook for other 5-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt only if necessary. The sauce is ready!
Cook orecchiette al dente stage in abundant salted water following the instructions on the package. Drain and pour them into the sauce. Stir and serve hot or warm.


  • - Some people vary this original recipe using beef meat or reducing horse meat (for example 400 g of horse meat plus 100 g of boiled ham, minced). You can add single cream (light cream) to the sauce. In Italy some people have this habit but they aren't respectful of Apulia tradition.
  • - Orecchiette with meatballs is one-plate meal. Serve only a green salad after it and then fresh fruit.
  • - It can be one of many courses (first course) in a special occasion!

For a lighter recipe

  • - This is a dish rich in fat and calories. So we made it modifying some doses and ingredients. For example we made meatballs with no cheese; so we used 60 g (2 oz) of stale bread instead of 40 g (1 1/2oz), an egg and some aromatic herbs (chives, parsley, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and a little chopped young onion). In this way you can add no salt too! It's a good solution for people who have to follow a diet poor in salt, isn't it? The mixture is soft but enough firm to saute the meatballs only in 3 tablespoons of olive oil without dipping them into the flour. Be careful only in stirring the meatballs in the pan: stir with delicacy! Besides we made the sauce sauteing a little onion, finely chopped (we don't like garlic), in 2 tablespoons of olive oil; then we poured in 700 ml (25 fl oz - 3 C) of puréed tomatoes and 200 ml (7 fl oz) of hot water. After 10-15 minutes we added the meatballs and completed the cooking in other 5 minutes.
    These are the new nutrition facts
    Energy kCal 501 kJ 2096
    Protein 14.8 (g)
    Total fat 11.0 (g)
    Total carbohydrate 91.4 (g)
    Sugars 9.3 (g)
    Fibres 5.3 (g)
    We lowered calories and fat. It's a great idea, isn't it?
    And the recipe tastes fantastic even in this way!
  • - What about if you are only two people? reduce the doses or ... prepare the sauce with the same doses. For lunch: cook only 200 g (7 oz) of orecchiette and dress pasta with the sauce and few meatballs. Put apart the remaining meatballs with a little sauce. They will be your dinner. Accompany them with boiled vegetables. If they are too many ... don't worry: they taste fantastic even the day after!

What's the right wine for " Orecchiette with meatballs "?

Our suggestion is: Valpolicella Classico Superiore (red wine from Veneto - Italy).