Polpette di Luccio (Pike Fishballs)


With our great happiness, the fisherman had a nice pike to give us…I already wrote not long ago the recipe “Luccio alla Mantovana/Pike at the Mantua way“, instead today I decided to do this tasty recipe 🙂

This recipe can be either a nice appetizer (for example it can be perfect next to an “aperitivo“, during the “happy hour” for example) or a second/main course dish, it depends on how much hungry you are 🙂

To make these fish balls it’s not difficult, indeed most of the job is about cleaning the pike from its many bones 🙂 so, if you decide to do this recipe, be ready to be patient 🙂

This is a recipe typical of Garda lake area, and according to the traditional recipe these pike balls should be fried in extra virgin olive oil.

I know, it’s not the cheapest option, in alternative you can use some seeds oil (like peanuts oil for example, which is for sure good at high temperatures), but it will be a bit different, the extra virgin olive oil gives its contribute to the final taste. Choose what you prefer.

Before going to the recipe, I want to say one important thing to know about the oil to use: if for all the refined seeds oil it’s quite easy to know their smoke point, instead for extra virgin olive oils no, it depends on their quality and it can vary from oil to oil.

Indeed, extra virgin olive oil is not refined (well, theoretically all the ones labelled as “extra virgin olive oil” shouldn’t be refined, but every year there are unfortunately many frauds and adulterations, so it’s not always easy to buy them in supermarkets), it means that it contains “impurities” and a little quantity of free fatty acids that can reduce its smoke point.

As explained also on the interesting italian blog of Dario Bressanini, if the acidity of the extra virgin olive oil is low, then the smoke point can be over 190 °C and suitable also to fry, if the acidity is high then the smoke point can drop well below 180 °C, so it’s not good to fry (good quality extra virgin olive oils have low acidity, although this factor alone is not always enough to say if an oil is a good quality oil…indeed an oil labelled as “refined olive oil” can have a low acidity but it’s not the best choice to eat, the same for “olio di sansa/pomace oil”, so the speech is longer, maybe we will have some other occasion to discuss more in depth).

How to know about the acidity of the extra virgin olive oil and its smoke point? Unfortunately only with labor analysis, or trusting your seller in some specific stores. Or you test the smoke point with a thermometer. In the doubt, you can choose a seed oil, as I said before, in that case you will have no doubts and it will be easier.

After this little explanation about the oil to fry (I hope it was not boring!), let’s see the recipe 🙂

INGREDIENTS (4-6 people)

  • 1 pike of about 1/1,2 Kg
  • 1 glass of dry white wine (or half glass of white vinegar)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 rib of celery
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 slices of older bread
  • some milk
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 30g butter (or extra virgin olive oil if you prefer)
  • a bunch of parsley
  • the zest of 1 lemon (untreated, in alternative you can use lemon thyme)
  • breadcrumbs
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oil to fry (it has to be enough to cover the fish balls)
  1. First step: clean and then boil the pike. Take a big pot, big enough to contain the whole fish (the best if you have a “pescera“, but it’s enough a big pot), and start boiling enough water to cover the fish with the onion, carrot, celery and some salt. When it starts boiling add the wine (or vinegar) and then the fish, and let it simmer for about 18/20 minutes (remember, it will have to fry later too, so don’t cook it too much).
  2. After that time, take out the fish, let it cool down some minutes and then start cleaning it. You must remove every single bone 🙂 if you know the anatomy of the fish it can be a bit faster the whole process, but take your time…meanwhile put also the old bread in the milk, to get softer.
  3. After you removed all the bones, cut the flesh of the fish in small pieces, with your hands or with a knife. Don’t use a food processor, otherwise it will be like baby food 🙂
  4. Now we will work in a large bowl. Remove the bread from the milk and squeeze it. Put in the bowl the pike flesh, the bread, the anchovy fillets cut into small pieces, the garlic (in small pieces), the soft butter (or extra virgin olive oil), some pepper (freshly ground), some salt, the parsley (finely chopped), the untreated lemon zest (or lemon thyme), the eggs and mix everything well together. Then add some breadcrumbs until it has reached a good texture, but don’t use too much breadcrumbs otherwise your balls will be too dry. Now shape your fish balls: about the size of a table tennis ball.
  5. Once the balls are ready, pass them in some flour, and heat the oil in which you are going to fry.
  6. To make a perfect, light and easily digestible fry we need to fry at around 180 °C, so help yourself with a thermometer or put a wooden stick in the oil: if bubbles come around the stick then it’s ready to fry.
  7. Remove the flour in excess and fry few balls at one time, 5/6 about. Remember that the oil must cover the balls. Few minutes are enough, just the time to get a nice color. If you fry at the correct temperature, your fish balls will not absorb much oil (indeed the absorbing paper was not soaked at all), they will be crunchy and the oil will not smoke, and you will digest them very easily like any other normal food. Your stomach will be thankful 🙂
  8. Squeeze some lemon on them, and serve hot with some fresh vegetables, cooked, grilled or in a salad 🙂 (in this case I had zucchini at home, so I cooked them very simple as “zucchine trifolate” with a little of garlic, chili, extra virgin olive oil, ground pepper and parsley). Simple, but tasty!

PS: Would you like maybe a dipping sauce for these pike balls? Then I suggest a simple and light mayonnaise, not to cover the delicate pike taste 🙂


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Iwanttobeacook says:

    Looks Yummy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are 🙂 just you have to eat it fast, the best is when they are still hot 🙂 thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rowena says:

    These fish balls should be on a menu of a food truck (although I think the labor involved to clean pike would make it an unrealistic idea). Perhaps you could suggest a restaurant?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Rowena, I think that the work to clean perfectly the pike is too much job and it would make the final price too much high for a street food 🙂 Honestly, I think that also by northern Italian lakes nowadays less and less restaurants are selling pike dishes.
      But luckily at home you don’t need to count that time as money, so we can make it whenever we want 🙂
      Well, on Iseo lake I can suggest you to look for some restaurants in Montisola (almost all the professional fishermen in the lake are from the island, and most of their catches go to the restaurants there), or “Trattoria Glisenti” in Vello.
      On Garda lake I cannot say a specific name, but for sure there are restaurants cooking the fish of the lake!

      Liked by 1 person

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