Tuna Balls with Sautèed Tomatoes

It's been years since I last shared a recipe at Apron and Sneakers. Life evolved, changed and moved to other roads. I ventured into writing about restaurants and wines, a product of wine specialization courses including becoming a sommelier. After all, food stays alongside wine in Italy. With the lockdown in Italy due to the coronavirus, I had more hours in my hands, something that I haven't had the luxury of having these past years. Like everyone else, we pushed our shirtsleeves up to our elbows and started working in the kitchens once again.

Let me start with these tuna balls or polpette di tonno which is an old recipe that I shared here back in 2012. I modified it a little bit by adding some mashed potatoes and onions. This time, the polpette came out tastier with the added onions and more body for the added potatoes. This recipe has been always been a success at home, with my family and guests. It uses ingredients that can easily be found in the kitchen, simple to make and never disappoints.

We've tried other dips for these polpette like mayonnaise or even ketchup but hands down, the sautèed tomatoes always comes out the winner. Choose the sweetest tomatoes that you can find like datterini tomatoes or if you can't find them, cherry tomatoes are great too. It's fundamental to use good quality ones because the recipe calls for a quick sautèè then adding just oil and oregano. Watery tomatoes wouldn't be great.

Tuna Balls with Sautèed Tomatoes (Polpette di Tonno)

Makes 19 - 20 pieces
  • 250 grams canned tuna preserved in olive oil
  • 1 medium boiled potato, peeled and mashed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 slices of bread (sides taken away)
  • 50 ml. milk  
  • 2 eggs
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (add more if the composition is too soft) + more for covering polpette
  • flour for covering polpette
  • peanut oil for deep frying (or any similar oil good for frying)
  • 200 grams cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed 
  • Dried oregano 
  • Fresh basil
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Let it cool, peel then mash. Set aside. 
  2. Drain the tuna well.  Squeeze out the excess liquid by pressing with a fork. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, soak the bread in milk then let the bread absorb it.  Discard the excess milk.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine 1 egg, tuna, potato, onion, bread, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper.  Mix well until it becomes compact.  Shape them into balls. 
  5. Prepare three small bowls.  One containing 1 whisked egg.  Another one containing flour and a third one with breadcrumbs.
  6. Heat a lot of peanut oil for frying.  
  7. Dip the balls in the following sequence: egg, flour and breadcrumbs.  Always shake off excess.
  8. When the oil is very hot, dip the polpette and cook until golden brown.
  9. Put them paper towels to get rid of excess oil.
  10. In a small saucepan, sautè the garlic in extra virgin olive oil.
  11. Add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle with dried oregano. Season with salt & pepper.  
  12. Serve the tuna balls with the tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil.