| Recipes

Nonna's Polpetti di Sardi by Carmela D'Amore

Starting my apprenticeship in life with the love for Sicilian food is a great benchmark in cooking, it was rewarding as I look back, it would take me to places and meet people that I would never in my life dream to meet. Today we say `dream big!' Well with that saying we need to start with small steps!

My apprenticeship with nonna Carmela was one that any apprentice would envy, what mentor loves you, guides you, scolds you and teaches you from their own experiences and rewards you with love from their own mother's heart!

This recipe is simple it is a true ode to Cucina Povera at its best, just imagine the fishermen selling the daily catch of fish on the side of the road, and then taking their little vespas into the streets and selling their catch to the local community, and returning home with their spoils for their own families.

Everyone in the community knows them and greets them with a friendly warmth, their is a feel of security in the streets, they have respect for their profession and continue to work the passion that has been in the family for generations.

This recipe is one of my nonna and I have updated it with new flavours ones she did not use.

This is an ancient recipe and in some parts of Sicily especially Palermo they put sultanas in them and pine nuts.

This is polpetti di Sardi.


300 grams of fresh sardines filleted

2 cups of parmesan cheese or pecorino romano

1 cup of parsley diced finely

1 clove of garlic crushed

old bread (soaked in milk for at least an hour) once bread is soaked drain the milk and squeeze the access milk)

2 to 3 free range organic eggs

sea salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of capers from the Island of Salina

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of cherry tomatoes

1 bunch of fresh teared basil

virgin olive oil

olive oil

What you need:

a oven tray

greaseproof paper


nonstick frying pan

food processor

Secret ingredients:

turn off your mobile phone

put some music on

centre yourself while cooking take a few deep breaths and be mindful of each process

place your thoughts on your loved ones that you are cooking this meal for.. lets start!


Today we have food processors in my time we did not so I would cut them very finely and chop them so that I could roll them into flat polpetti (meatballs).

Place them into your food processor and finely mince them. Put them into a bowl and place all of the ingredients together and mix them, always have a bowl of warm water beside you so that you can dip your hands in the water to work the ingredients together, allow to sit in the fridge for at least half an hour so that the ingredients do their magnificent delicious work with in the flavours.

While you are waiting you can make up a napoli, dice 1/2 a cup of onions and fry them in a nonstick frying pan with a little virgin olive oil.

When the onions are golden brown add your favourite can of diced tomatoes and a can of cherry tomatoes, once the tomatoes have reached boiling, simmer at a low heat add salt (not too much as the sardines have a beautiful saltiness about them) pepper, garlic, capers, half the basil.

Place some olive oil in a frying pan and allow to heat up, on the bench next to your frying pan, place the sardine mixture out of the fridge and wet the palms of your hands, making a flat meatball, on another tray place the meatballs, once the pan has reached temperature, please do not allow it to be too hot, as you want the meatballs a golden colour.

Place them in the frying pan and leave them for at least 2 to 3 minutes turning when they have that golden look about them, you don't want them to be cooked they still need to be raw in the middle as the cooking process will continue once they are in the sugo.

When they are ready place them in the saucepan with the sugo, and turn them around a few times in a low heat.

they will cook for about another 30 minutes, if the sauce is becoming dry just add a little water, just about 10 minutes before cooking time, add the rest of the basil to infuse the density of the flavour.

You can add a little spaghetti with the sauce and have 2 courses as my nonna taught me, adding a side salad or some seasonal verdura, like: broccoli, rappi, silverbeet.

Note: You can make the meatballs with your children, giving them a sense of bonding through cooking together.


Check out all these sardines nutrition benefits! Only 3 oz. of sardines provides (in recommended daily values):

Fresh raw sardines

  • 190 calories
  • 23 grams of protein
  • 11 grams of fat
  • 338% vitamin B12
  • 87% selenium
  • 64% phosphorus
  • 61% omega-3 fats
  • 44% vitamin D
  • 35% calcium
  • 30% vitamin B3
  • 24% iodine
  • 19% copper
  • 16% choline

See you in the kitchen, Buon Cibo, good food, building families through heritage cooking.