I have a distinct memory of my first experience with a seafood dish.
And it was not white fish balls, but rather a brodetto.
Or fish soup, as grandma often called it.
The restorative meatballs came later.
But let’s go in order.
With the arrival of the dish, I smelled a pleasant fragrance. Then I saw pieces of different fishes floating in a red sea of tomato sauce. The view got the better of the nose.
Grandma, who caught the terror in my eyes, was quick to remove the plate before the imminent enactment of the diktat “finish what’s on the plate.”
The strict rule applied at home.
Seafood a la Romagnola
When speaking of Romagna cuisine, it is correct to use a plural. In this way, you are considering the culinary traditions corresponding to the geographical areas: valleys, hills/Apennines, coastal littoral, and lagoon.
Together, they combine to give life to the cuisine of Romagna, which, in its variety, has one characteristic common to all areas. It is predominantly a peasant cuisine.
Among the culinary traditions of Romagna, there is seafood.
Romagna-style cooking fish is different from that of other Italian regions.
With the exclusion of brodetti and some ragouts, we cook fish above all in white.
The recipes are simple and without complex cookings.
In Romagna, we use fish as a condiment for pasta. And pasta for fish, often, is egg-based. Yes, we use fresh pasta also for fish. Some ragouts are red, for instance, squid or clam ragouts (those from the Adriatic are called poverazze, they are small and tasty).
Or, we cook fish on the grill (alla griglia), usually sprinkled with breadcrumbs.
Skewers of sardines, squid, and shrimp, all dressed in breadcrumbs and a bit of finely chopped herbs, are a great classic of the Romagna Riviera. So are marinated anchovies and fried fish served with chips or vegetables, also fried.
With the fish recipes of Romagna, you never miss the piadina.
Seafood cuisine characterizes the entire coast, from the Lidi of Ferrara to Cattolica and not only. In fact, Romagna practically ends in Pesaro, which, even though it is in the Marche region, people here speak and cook as they do in Romagna.
Cooking fish is widespread also in the part of Romagna far from the sea. The area of Lugo, an inland municipality in the province of Ravenna, is known for its tradition of brodetto. So are many other non-coastal cities. And on the other hand, the sea is nearby, and fish has always come easily.
Bologna, too, has its seafood recipes.
Just think of spaghetti alla Bolognese, which, in addition to actually existing, is prepared with tuna, which has been widespread and used since ancient times.
Once Bologna had navigable canals that reached as far as the Po Delta and the Adriatic ports. And beyond, as far as Ferrara and Venice.
Fish cooking at home
I return to the brodetto.
Because I ate everything, indeed was a curious taster, Grandma thought-or perhaps hoped- I would haven’t rejected the brodetto. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and because of that experience, I never ate the brodetto again or even wanted to taste the stewed eel she often cooked.
She decided to make remedial fish balls to cancel my diffidence toward sea dwellers. You know it too, the meatball is irresistible. And, indeed, peace was restored.
And although I happily eat fish a la Romagnola but am not used to cooking it.
It is time to change and share more fish recipes.
Grandma made the fish balls with white fish and rice boiled separately and mixed with fresh herbs, egg, and Parmesan cheese. And they are fried.
To the dough, I added a coarsely chopped caramelized red onion.
You decide whether to put it in or not. If you have pistachio (or almond) granola, sprinkle with the granola before cooking the meatballs.
I’ve tried the cooking in the oven and pan, and either way, you’ll get great meatballs.
Fish meatballs are a main course grandma usually served with tomatoes au gratin (HERE), baked potatoes, friggione (HERE, find the recipe), or salad. In my opinion, they are also perfect as an appetizer. Either way, don’t forget the piadina (HERE, find the recipe from my house).
Buona cucina, Monica
Cook with me
The rule of finishing what’s on the plate is part of my educational background.
As a child, it sometimes created difficulties for me, for example, with roast beef (HERE), but today I am an adult who eats everything.
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Grandma’s white fish balls recipe
List of the Ingredients
200 g white fish fillets
100 g basmati rice
30 g grated parmesan cheese
40 g breadcrumbs
olive oil, salt to taste
chopped oregano to taste
if you like: 1 red onion, about 120 g
optional: 30 g pistachio granules
Cook the fish in a preheated oven at 180C degrees for a few minutes (with a drizzle of oil). Chop with a knife and keep aside.
Boil rice in salted boiling water, drain and keep aside.
Finely chop the onion and cook it in a pan with oregano, salt, and olive oil.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients by kneading with a spoon or lightly greased hands, and add salt to taste. And form about 36 to 40 meatballs.
Cook the meatballs in the pan, without a lid, or in preheated oven for a few minutes. Either way, add olive oil and turn them.
Or fry the fishballs like Grandma Sara used to make!