Category Archives: Budget cooking

Italian polpette sauce for pasta dishes

Italian meatball sauce is a classic and one that is easy to prepare, follow my simple instructions in the slide presentation below. Enjoy!  

In the presentation I have used locally available produce and have reduced the fat content in the whole recipe, however it is still delicious according to my family. If you try out the recipe let me know what you think, leave a note in the comments below. Thank you.

Presentation Slides for the Recipe on slideshare

Notes from the slides:
  1. No notes 
  2. Most of my ingredients are organic home produce.
  3. I tend to always cook ‘last minute’ so having carrot and celery stalks in the freezer is a must! The onion or garlic is always fresh as it keeps better. Plus I just love my pressure cooker!!
    Now I know most of you will be thinking why isn’t she sautéing the vegetables, well I prefer to leave out frying whenever I can, but you can certainly sauté the vegetables at this stage.
  4. First mix the basics here, mixing all ingredients well before adding the breadcrumbs. I don’t add garlic or onion to the meatballs as I add it to the Tomato sauce, it also makes for a more delicate flavour meatball.
  5. I use my own homemade breadcrumbs which is why it looks lumpy but you may use finer grated breadcrumbs.
  6. Roll the homogeneous mixture into a ball and let it sit for at least 10mins in the refrigerator, but even more than that is no problem.
  7. I like to have the meatballs all the same size so I use a tablespoon from my standard cutlery, sometimes I make mini meatballs to add to Broth with Maltagliati – so I use a tea or coffee spoon to measure the quantity.
  8. I leave the rolling of the meatballs till last, as it is easier to do them all at once, but it doesn’t change the flavour if you like to measure them and roll them one by one.
  9. I always make an uneven amount, sort of superstition in cooking!
  10. I am adding the wine here although I could have added it at the beginning and just let the vegetables soak in it, but it doesn’t change anything so you can add it now or previously. My main problem is that I am always in a rush and getting things from the freezer comes before getting things from the refrigerator!
  11. Place the meatballs down gently on top of the vegetables taking care not to lose their shape too much!
  12. I find that 1 litre is plenty for four plates, but if you want more tomato just add it here.
    I buy my tomato sauce nowadays as we do find great products here in the local supermarkets, but in the early days I would always make my own, from 60 litres to 150 litres!! Now I just make my own hot chilly salsa (all organic home grown!).
  13. I tend to overuse my pressure cooker and not just due to the ‘being in a rush all the time’, but also because I find that cooking under pressure seems to give that tenderness and not over dry the tomato sauce.
  14. I use aluminium pots for boiling water for pasta as it seems to be quicker to boil and re-boil once the pasta is dropped in which naturally lowers the water temperature.
  15. The image of success (in cooking).
  16. I always remove meat (as do most Italian housewives) from the ‘sugo’ before straining the pasta. Sometimes I use thermal containers to keep it warm.
  17. You can avoid using another bowl by simply straining the whole pot and replacing the pasta back in the same pot and dressing it there, but it’s all a matter of habit, I guess.
  18. If you prefer to have a smoother sauce you can always use a plunge mixer to smooth it down, I often do this when I have guests (or kiddies) as it looks refined or easier for kiddies to eat everything.
  19. Over my very short time in cooking one thing has been a revelation, how easy it is to make changes to the basic recipe sometimes re-inventing a new dish or new flavours.
 Transcript of the slides:

1. “Sugo alle Polpette” Italian sauce, for pasta, with meatballs. Recipe by Nives Torresi

2. Ingredients Serves 4 for entree 200 grams lean beef mince ½ chopped or sliced onion 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 ½ tablespoons breadcrumbs 1 garlic clove, 1 small carrot 1 small stalk of celery 1 egg 1 litre Italian tomato sauce (passata) 125 ml of white table wine ½ cup extra virgin olive oil salt & pepper to taste 250 grams of pasta (penne)

3. Method – step one In a pressure cooker add a splash of oil, sliced onion, garlic, carrot and celery.

4. Method – step two In a mixing bowl add 200 grams mince meat, egg, parsley, splash of oil, salt & pepper

5. Method – step three Mix all ingredients by hand (gloves if you like) then add the breadcrumbs …

6. Method – step three cont… … creating a homogeneous mixture

7. Method – step four Let mixture rest for 15mins, then use a tablespoon to ‘measure’ the same amount for all meatballs

8. Method – step four … Check one to see if it is right for you… then make all the sized out lumps before shaping the rest of the meatballs

9. Method – step five Finish making all the meatballs and place on tray

10. Method – step six Go to pressure cooker and add wine to the vegetables

11. Method – step seven Add meatballs and place inside the pressure cooker without overlapping

12. Method – step eight Next add the red tomato sauce Covering the meatballs in the pressure cooker Then add a dash of oil plus Salt and Pepper

13. Method – step nine Put the lid on the pressure cooker onto the stove top with flame on high and when it is whistling close the air valve and cook for 30 minutes on a very low flame

14. Method – step ten When there are about 10 minutes to go for meatballs get the pasta water to boiling point – add rock salt (1 tablespoon) to boiling water, then add 250 grams of pasta (I used penne this time). Remember to turn off flame for the pressure cooker and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before opening valve and lid. You can use any pasta you like, but if you use fresh pasta then wait to cook it when the meatball sauce is ready, as fresh pasta cooks quickly.

15. Method – step eleven What you should see when you open the pressure cooker

16. Method – step eleven cont… Now remove the meatballs, carrot and celery stalk from the sauce – place them in a bowl or container. This is what it should look like now…

17. Method – step twelve Strain the pasta and add to a mixing bowl, then dress with a small amount of cooked sauce

18. Serving suggestion Serve pasta into 4 plates and dress with extra sauce and add 3 meatballs on top, don’t forget the grated cheese!

19. Making changes to the recipe If you don’t have or want to use a pressure cooker, then double the cooking time by using a medium sized pot. Bring to boil then simmer on very low heat for about 55-60 minutes. Use same recipe for 6 people only change the amount of mince to 300 grams and add an extra ½ tablespoon of breadcrumbs and olive oil. Increase pasta to 400gm. Recipe as is can also serve two as a main meal. Questions or comments are welcome, thank you.

20. Thank you Cooking tutorial prepared by Mrs Nives Torresi


Grilled zucchini and eggplant


One of my favourite dishes during the summer months when the produce is fresh locally and very organic!

My method
Hand sliced zucchini and eggplant go onto the non-stick grill over the hotplates. No waiting for the veggies to sit in a salt bath.
I leave them to brown on both sides then dress them at the end of grilling.
I washed and sliced the zucchini first then cooked them all before slicing the eggplant. I then repeated the process of cutting and grilling the eggplant.

Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped parsley

Serve with toasted Italian bread!

Pasta al Pomodoro


200 grams Pennette
250 grams canned or Fresh Pomodorini Datterini
Sprig of satureja and fresh oregano
1 clove Garlic
Olive oil, salt, pepper


Boil and cook pasta as per packet instructions. In the meantime clean garlic clove and drop in pasta water while waiting for the boil. In a frypan add the fresh (sliced halves) or canned datterini tomatoes, add sprigs of satureja and oregano, then add garlic (boiled for about 30 seconds in the pasta water before adding pasta!) then salt, pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for a few minutes (more if fresh tomatoes) then add olive oil and simmer a little bit more. When the color looks right and flavour is right, then add some boiling pasta water (about 1/2 cup) bring tomato sauce to boiling point, remove garlic and then add pasta. Stir a minute until pasta absorbs the sauce, then serve! Makes 2 hearty servings or 4 dinner servings.

Buon Appetito!

Pennette in fresh Tomatoe salsa
Pennette in fresh Tomatoe salsa
Datterino Tomato
Datterino Tomato

Fegato ed altro (chicken livers)


1 medium Onion 100 grams chopped mixed fegati, duroni, cuore (chicken livers, gizzards, heart) 3 slices guanciale  (cheek lard) 2 tablespoons Brandy Hot chilly pepper to taste Salt, pepper & oil to taste


In a fry pan Sauté onion sliced thinly with water, once transparent, throw away water, add sliced and chopped guanciola and oil wait until frying then add chicken livers, gizzards and heart toss quickly then throw in salt, pepper, brandy and hot chilly. Stir fry until cooked and brandy has evaporated. When finished cooking you should have a small amount of liquid in the pan, serve with toasted italian bread. Red wine. Serves two for antipasto. Follow with Spaghetti al Pomodoro o Penne Arrabiata. Tossed Salad.


The photographs included here are of Beef Liver and the recipe is almost the same only no guanciola and substitute the brandy for grappa, plus added fresh oregano to this! It was quite yummy according to my hubby.

Onions sauteed in water
Onions sauteed in water
Prime Beef
Chopped Beef Liver
Adding Chopped liver
Adding Chopped liver
Right colouring for plating up!
Right colouring for plating up!

Beer Chicken (my own recipe)

Beer chicken photo A
Photo A – Beer Chicken

Recipe for 2-4 persons
Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins

This is a recipe that I make regularly as we enjoy it with a good glass of wine during the autumn months or a cold beer – especially on hot summer nights… Some had been asking for the recipe which I’ve explained over and over but now it’s here for everyone to come looking when they want.


500 grams of Chicken pieces (cut away most fat leaving some skin)
500 ml Beer of your choice (not dark)
2 cloves garlic
2 twigs rosemary
2 sage leaves
Salt, Pepper to taste


Place cleaned chicken pieces (with or without bones I prefer a mix myself) in deep set saucepan/frypan (I like to use Bessemer saucepan for this recipe) add chopped garlic and whole rosemary twigs and sage leaves. Pour ½ quantity of beer (not cold from fridge) cover with the lid and bring to boil. Put remaining beer in the fridge. Once boiling, lower heat add salt and pepper then simmer until golden brown, turning pieces every so often. Then at this point (see photo A – about 30 minutes into cooking) raise heat then slowly pour remaining cold beer (from fridge), watch it sizzle (see photo B) and wait until most of the beer has dissolved into a gluey syrup. Voilà it’s done!
Serving suggestion: place pieces on plate and spoon over cooking syrup/sauce from pan.
Serve with tossed salad, or veggies of your choice.
Buon Appetito :o)

Photo B of Beer Chicken
Photo B of Beer Chicken