Red Bean Meatballs with Spicy Sauce (Polpette di Fagioli Rossi in Salsa Picante)

This is an unusual “meatball” but the red beans and pancetta served in a spicy harissa-like broth are a winning combination. Red Bean Meatballs.

Red Bean Meatballs with Spicy Sauce (Polpette di Fagioli Rossi in Salsa Picante)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from La Cucina ItalianaPublished


  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼‑inch dice
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into ¼‑inch dice
  • 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 fresh red chiles, such as arbol or fresno (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic cloves, peeled
  • sea salt, as needed
  • 8 ounce pancetta, cut into ¼‑inch dice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans
  • 1 large egg white
  • .75 cup semolina flour
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup
  • ¼ cup 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, ¼ cup (or less depending on wetness of mixture) semolina flour and about ¼ 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.