For Valentine’s Day, my wife treated us to a Beef Wellington dinner, prepared and delivered by a local chef. Even though she got rave reviews, we weren’t really Wow’d. Having had Wellington in the past, I knew that there were a few things lacking… The cut of beef wasn’t tender enough, the mushroom duxelle was a bit funky tasting, and it was missing a wrap of Parma ham inside the (greasy) pastry.
Thinking I could do better, I started thinking… and thinking… Why not transform the Wellington into an Italian version?
The idea was to design a recipe similar to Beef Wellington… but instead of using a tender loin steak inside, it would be a large, flattened Italian style polpette (meatball), wrapped in prosciutto and provolone cheese with an black olive/pesto Tapinade just inside the puff pastry. There are similar recipes in Italy called Polpettone in Crosta, but these are loaf-size meatloafs, often stuffed with hard boiled eggs or other ingredients. I wanted mine to remain a Polpette–a true meatball.
I set out to make my Polpette alla Wellington!
- 2 pounds ground chuck
- 1 medium Vidalia, small dice
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons red wine
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1-1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 15 cracks black pepper (from a pepper-mill)
- 1 cup canola oil + 2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
- 1 – 16 ounce can of black olives, well drained
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons pesto (from jar or Make it Fresh)
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4-6 slices delicatessen sharp provolone
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, speck or Boar Head Brand Piccolo Prosciutto
- 2 packages frozen puff pastry (butter or shortening type, your choice)
- 1 beaten egg (for egg wash)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a large mixing bowl, place the ground chuck and sprinkle with the red wine. Mix well, until the wine is distributed.
- Make a well in the middle of the meat and into it place the egg, salt, thyme, sage, basil and pepper.
- Now add the Parmigiano Reggiano and with clean hands, mix the meat mixture well to incorporate all ingredients.
- Add the breadcrumbs, little by little… adding a little, mixing, then checking to see that the mixture is starting to cling together when you form a small ball. Hold back breadcrumbs if needed. You don’t want the mix too dry and bready. (This needs to done “by eye” and “by feel” because ground chuck can vary in moisture content.)
- Take about 10-12 ounces of polpette mixture and form a square about 1″ thick, using a fork to smooth the sides to make sure there are no cracks anywhere. You should be able to make three or four of these. If you have extra mixture, perhaps make some small meatballs for another meal (I actually had enough to do this).
- Place the formed polpette on a plate lined with wax paper and then into a refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
- At this point, follow the directions on the puff pastry package to thaw the sheets. This should take about 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a half sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. You may even bake your Wellingtons on a rack fitted into the sheet pan (a good way to prevent soggy bottoms).
- Place a large frying pan on a medium heat on the cooktop and add both oils.
- When the oils are hot, fry the Polpette until brown on each side. Do not overheat the pan and don’t crown them. If you are using a smaller fry pan, fry each one separately. The can be slightly underdone in the middle since they will bake in the oven once wrapped in pastry.
- When done frying, place on brown paper or paper towels to drain, then onto a wax paper lined plate into the refrigerator to set up and cool for handling.