Serves 6 (as a starter or 4 as a main)
At the glamorous Pierluigi restaurant in Rome, these delightfully soft balls of fish, basil and cheese in a tomato sauce make a sumptuous starter. They use amberjack but you could use any white fish such as cod, haddock or coley.
For the tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 sprig basil
- 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 x 400 g (14 oz) tins plum tomatoes
For the fish balls
- 500 g (1lb 2 oz) coley and cod mixture, minced in a food processor or finely chopped by hand
- 10 g (1/2 oz) basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 40 g (1 ½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
- 40 g (11/2 oz) stale breadcrumbs
- 100 ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
METHOD: First make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and, when hot, add the garlic and herbs. Swirl around the oil with the flavourings for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes. Mash them to a pulp with a potato masher, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let the sauce cook for 10–20 minutes while you
prepare the fish balls.
Mix together all the ingredients for the fish balls in a bowl by hand. When well-combined, roll a small amount into a ball, around the size of a walnut. Whenever you make any patty, fish or meat ball always test one first for seasoning. It is awful to make all the shapes and then find when you sit down to eat that actually, all it needed was a little more salt or cheese.
Heat a little oil in a small frying pan and fry one ball to cook it through – about 5 minutes. You can speed this up by flattening the ball to allow the heat to penetrate more quickly. Taste and make sure you are happy with the seasoning and flavour, adding more seasoning and/or cheese if necessary. Make up the rest of the balls.
Gently place the balls into the tomato sauce to cook for around 10 minutes or until they are cooked through. Remove the sprigs of herbs and serve in warm bowls with crusty bread to mop up the sauce.