Belligerent Bean Balls in Crisis (Polpette di Fagioli Rossi in Salsa Picante)

Red Bean Balls. Sounds delish, huh?

Well, how about Polpette di Fagioli Rossi in Salsa Picante? That sounds a bit more appetizing, or at least a bit more glamorous, yeah? Because this is a blog, right? Aren’t I supposed to make things sound appetizing? Yeah… in theory I suppose.

Still, no matter how you slice it– Polpette di Fagioli Rossi is just a fancy name for Red Bean Balls. You can call them what you like. You don’t need me to make them sound delish. They ARE delish. Besides, does what I say really make one whit of difference? You see lately I have been feeling like calling things as they are. Red Bean Balls in a Spicy Sauce. There I said it, in plain English.

Let me also say that I am aware of my belligerent attitude. I am sure you’ve noticed it too. I think I am having a mid-life crisis– and by “me” I don’t mean ME. I had my mid-life crisis at age 12. Gay people are forced to look reality hard in the face at a very young age. Even before they fully understand what it is that makes them different. So gay kids have two choices (or at least gay kids from my generation). These choices are simple and they contain a lesson that applies to so many aspects of life. These choices are put up or shut up.

Red Bean Balls in Spicy BrothShutting up opens the door to a lot of self-denial and in some cases even self-hatred. Meaning a crisis of self-image is possible even before puberty. Because no matter what your age, a mid-life crisis is really just a feeling of loss. A feeling that your self-identity has somehow gotten muddled.

But putting up means accepting yourself (no matter how privately or how painfully).

What I am trying to say is this. SippitySup is having a mid-life crisis. It’s almost 3 years old. Or at least it was conceived about 3 years ago. Its birth wasn’t until November, ’08.

Now I have never been pregnant. But I have seen expectant parents talking to their unborn babies plenty of times. So I can see how you can already get to know and love something well before its actual debut to the world. So in my mind, Sippity Sup is 3 years old.

3 years old for a blog is indeed mid-life. Heck, many (most??) blogs don’t even live that long. So it’s understandable that maybe Sup! is feeling a bit lost. Maybe even a bit belligerent. I can hear Sup! whining too– in the most unattractive way: “What’s the point of blogging? It’s the same thing day after day. Nobody cares. The world won’t stop if this blog ended. Woe is me. The end is nigh”.

Barbra SteisandNow if that attitude doesn’t just scream “crisis of self-image” I don’t what does.

In fact, that kind of attitude sounds a lot like “shutting up” (or shutting down) to me. So I am going give old Sup! a bit of advice, before he gets too boring for words.  And that advice is simple. Put up or shut up, there’s a lot of great stuff ahead.

I think Barbra Streisand said it best in Funny Girl

Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter.
Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.
Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade!
Don’t tell me not to fly, I simply got to.
If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you.
Who told you you’re allowed to rain on my parade?

I’m gonna live and live NOW!
Get what I want, I know how!
One roll for the whole shebang!
One throw and that bell will go clang,
Eye on the target and wham.
One shot, one gun shot and bam!

Hey, Mr. Arnstein, here I am … 

I hope Mr. Arnstein likes Red Bean Balls.

polpette di fagioli rossiPolpette di Fagioli Rossi in Salsa Picante

Adapted from La Cucina Italiana serves 6

CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 c vegetable broth
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4‑inch dice
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4‑inch dice
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 fresh red chiles, such as arbol or fresno (or more to taste)
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 clv garlic cloves, peeled
  • sea salt, as needed
  • 8 oz pancetta, cut into 1/4‑inch dice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3⁄4 c semolina flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1⁄4 cup
  • 1⁄4 c canola oil


In a small saucepan combine vegetable broth, bell pepper, celery, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chili peppers, tomato paste, garlic clove, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Discard garlic clove.

Brown the pancetta dice in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes. Drain away most of the fat. In a food processor pulse the beans 8 or 10 times, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. They should remain quite chunky. Remove half the beans to a large mixing bowl. Puree the remaining beans, then scrape them into the same bowl with the chunky beans.

To the bean bowl add the browned pancetta and about 1‑tablespoon of its fat, the remaining olive oil, egg white, 1/4 cup (or less depending on wetness of mixture) semolina flour and about 1/4 teaspoon salt; blend the mixture together with your hands. Do not overmix. Form this mixture into thirty 1‑tablespoon sized balls. They will be sticky, but be diligent.

Put the remaining semolina flour into a shallow bowl. Lightly beat the whole egg in another shallow bowl. Dip 1 ball into the egg, letting excess drip away, then dredge it in the semolina flour to lightly coat on all sides. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls.

In a large non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Fry the balls, in batches, rolling them around in the skillet as they cook to brown well on all sides. About 3 to 5 minutes per batch. remove them as they finish to a paper towel lined tray. Season them with salt while still warm.

Reheat the sauce. Serve red bean meatballs in shallow bowls drizzled with some of the sauce.


Greg Henry

Sippity Sup