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Polpette al Sugo (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

  Polpette al sugo is a favourite from way back, a frugal way of feeding the family.  They were always prepared and cooked in sugo (tomato sauce) for Sunday family meals.  During winter, a few freshly homemade sausages would also be added to the sauce for that extra flavour.  The sauce would be served on home made ferretti or tagliatelle , as 'il primo piatto' (first course), and le polpette eaten for secondo with a green salad on the side.  We always made sure that a few would be left for the following days school lunches. Everyone has a favourite meatball recipe, whether handed down from their nonna or mamma ; or discovered in someone's cookbook that they continue to make and swear by.  Mamma likes to add cooked potato to the mix, rendering them moist.  Some like to add ricotta, while I have added grated carrot to these and have done so since my girls were little.  It was a sneaky way of hiding a vegetable they weren't very keen on. Most would agree that they m

Baci della Mamma (Mother's Kisses)

Ask me what my favourite nut is and I will happily tell you that it's the hazelnut. I love its woody flavour and associate it with my childhood memories, and my love for good quality chocolate mixed with hazelnuts from Piedmont.  It had inspired me to make my Chocolate Hazelnut Biscuits and write about my return visit to my birth town Domodossola. 

Piedmont is a region in the far north-west of Italy, to the west is France, to the north is Switzerland, and to the east the plains of Lombardia and the city of Milano.  It is a land of enormously varied typography but its defining feature is the peaks of the Alps which not only form its boundary but whose snowy summits can be seen almost anywhere in Piemonte. 

This region is renowned for some world class products, and in Manuela  Darling-Gansser own words making reference to the delights of this region in her book Autumn in Piemonte:

"If you have ever begun the evening with an aperitif of red vermouth (from Torino), nibbled some grissini breadsticks (Torino), enjoyed a risotto or Carnaroli rice (Vercelli) with truffle oil (Alba), drunk a Barolo wine (Langhe), had a slice of Gorgonzola cheese (Novara) or Fontina cheese (Valle d'Aosta) and finished with a chocolate mixed with hazelnuts (Torino), you have indeed been experiencing some of the pleasures of the region."

The hazelnuts used in those fine chocolates such as Baci Perugina, Ferrero Rocher and Gianduiotti,  are grown in the Langhe area of Piedmont and highly prized for their plumpness, high oil content and taste. This area supplies Torino's demand for nuts for its Gianduiotti, and the most prized variety of hazelnuts in Italy is called Nocciola Piemonte IGP.  

This recipe that follows is from the above mentioned book and one of my favourites of this regionThese little soft biscuits are called Baci della Mamma.  Similar to the more famous Baci di Dama, but without the chocolate filling. They are light and sweet as the name suggests - a mother's kisses.  These were made for my mamma in appreciation for all that she has done for us and for her love of this region. 

 If you make them, you may not be able to stop at one, and if you have travelled to Piedmont, it may bring back some fond memories too.  

Baci della Mamma (Mother's Kisses) 

(Makes about 45 biscuits)

As much as I would have loved to use hazelnuts from this region, logistically I chose to locally source my hazelnuts from within Victoria, supporting our Australian growers as much as possible and may I add, I was very happy with their plumpness and flavour too. 


250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

60 g caster (superfine) sugar

300 g plain flour

140 g hazelnuts, toasted, skin rubbed off and roughly pounded

1-2 teaspoons salt

icing (confectioner's) sugar, to coat the biscuits

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F)

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy.  Add the flour, hazelnuts and salt and mix for a short time until the dough is just amalgamated.

Place some baking paper on an oven tray.  Take a little of the dough and between your hands roll it into little oval balls, about 2cm in diameter.  Lay the balls side by side on the tray, and bake in the oven until they are lightly golden, for about 10 - 15 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven, allowing the biscuits to cool slightly before touching to avoid them breaking apart. Continue the cooling process on a biscuit rack.

In a bowl sift about 1 cup of icing sugar and then gently roll the little biscuits in the sugar, until well coated, or lightly sift the sugar on top as I did.



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