red bean meatballs with spicy sauce

polpette di fagioli rossi in salsa piccante

6 servings

Most of the "meat" in this colorful meatball is actually red beans cooked with garlic and chile peppers. The beans get chopped and studded with crispy pancetta before being shaped, fried and served with a spicy sauce.



  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 fresh chile peppers, preferably arbol
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Fine sea salt
  • 7 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 15-ounce can red beans, well rinsed and drained (see Note)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil


In a small saucepan combine vegetable broth, bell pepper, celery, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chile peppers, tomato paste, garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove and discard garlic; remove sauce from heat. 

Brown pancetta in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes. Drain fat. In a food processor, pulse the beans until chopped; do not puree them into a paste. Transfer to a large bowl. Add pancetta, remaining tablespoon olive oil, egg white and 1/4 teaspoon salt; blend with your hands until just combined well (do not overmix). Form 1-tablespoon portions into 30 (1-inch) balls.

Put flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat whole egg in another shallow bowl. Dip 1 ball into egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in flour to lightly coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls. Warm sauce over low heat. 

In a large saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Fry balls, in 2 batches, turning, until a dark golden crust has formed on the outside, about 3 minutes per batch. Serve with sauce.
Note: The description of the amount of beans called for has changed slightly from the print edition of this recipe; the beans should also be chopped and not pureed as originally directed.