Looks & tastes like a meatball, except it’s not! With just one bite of this cacio e uova meatless recipe, you’ll quickly become a fan of cucina povera. You’ll be truly amazed at how good this appetizer is when you consider the ingredients: stale bread, eggs and cheese. Come and take a closer look at this forgotten, traditional Southern Italian food.
Pallotte cacio e uova literally means cheese and egg balls. Just like this Easy Pasta and Lentils Recipe, here is another example of cucina povera: only basic ingredients are used, because they were often the only ones available to the war-torn peasant Italians. Cucina povera is often translated as “poor man’s food. Nowadays, this Cacio e Uova Meatless Recipe makes for the perfect vegetarian appetizer (or even a meal).
After my Easter baking blitz, I had some Caciotta cheese leftover from making my Italian Savoury Easter Cheese Pie, so I went ahead and tried this recipe out. If you do not have Caciotta cheese, you can use any other sheep’s milk cheese… a Pecorino Romano would be perfect. You can also throw in a couple of tablespoons of any cheese that has a sharp bite to it. This will provide an interesting contrast.
You will see that the recipe calls for 3 cups of cubed stale bread. I used a whole wheat pagnotta bread. Pagnotta is a rustic Italian bread, usually round in shape. I then let the bread soak in a little bit of milk. I’m always trying to find ways to increase my fiber intake. Mash up the bread/milk with a fork (or your fingers), and you should be able to achieve a uniform “mushy” texture.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, and pepper together. In my humble opinion, the cheese provides more than enough salt to this dish. But then again, that’s the dietitian part of me speaking 🙂 Combine both the egg and the bread mixture in order to achieve a mixture that will hold together. If you find the mixture is too soft, you can add a little bit of cheese. If, on the other hand, the mixture is too dry, add a few teaspoons of a beaten egg until the texture hold its shape. Refrigerate this mixture for at least 60 minutes – this will help the flavors blend together and facilitate the rolling process.
In the meanwhile, you can prepare a quick tomato sauce (I’ve included the recipe down below) for this cacio e uova meatless recipe.
I use my medium sized cookie scoop to make about 16 balls. They get a very light coating of flour before getting rolled around in a non-stick frying pan.
These cheese and egg balls then get to simmer in a tomato sauce for about 10 minutes until they are ready to be served.
As you can probably guess, I have to thank my paternal grandmother for introducing this cacio e uova meatless recipe to me about half a century ago! In my grandmother’s Italian dialect, this rustic food was referred to as “cace e ova”. My dad’s mom was born in Ripabottoni, in the province of Campobasso, in the Italian region of Molise. I can honestly say that this was not a dish that I was fond of as a kid. This combination of cheese, eggs and stale bread in the shape of lopsided balls would make an occasional appearance on the supper table, and always on a Friday (since we never ate meat on Fridays). Today, I find myself re-visiting this “forgotten” recipe.
Recently, I asked my dad about this dish and he nonchalantly said that when he was growing up in Italy, this was eaten because they could not afford to eat meat. I immediately understood this was not one of his favorite meals. Since they lived on a farm, sheep’s milk cheese and eggs were readily available, and as for the stale bread – he was always so hungry, he would have eaten just about anything! But, in the same breath, he also commented that in retrospect, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that you worked in the fields from dawn to dusk; it didn’t matter that there wasn’t an abundance of food. Life was simple and whatever they had to eat, they shared with family and friends. And those very values are the ones that resonate with me… I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because at the end of the day, I truly believe that food is about sharing with the ones you love and mean the most to you.
And so, isn’t it funny how everything old is new again and the meals which were considered “peasant” foods are now appreciated because of their simplicity and the fact that they are meatless. And that through the generations, food is a force which brings people together.
I love to serve this Cacio e Uova Meatless Recipe as an appetizer. It’s a great conversation starter, it’s easy to prepare, and it actually tastes great! Have you ever had Cacio e Uova? Would love to hear what you think about this!
THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.
Ciao for now,
★★★★★ If you have made this Cacio e Uova Meatless Recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Cacio e Uova Meatless Recipe
- 3 cups cubed rustic bread crusts removed (approx. 100 grams)
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pecorino Romano finely grated (approx. 80 grams)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoons parsley minced
- 1 tablespoon flour to lightly coat the egg and cheese balls
- 1 tablespoon olive oil to lightly fry the egg and cheese balls
The tomato sauce:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced finely
- 1 medium rib of celery diced finely
- 1 carrot diced finely
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Liter passata (tomato puree) 4 cups
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 4-6 basil leaves
- black pepper to taste
- extra cheese and basil for garnish
- In a large wide bowl, soak the bread with the milk. Set aside a few minutes for the milk to be absorbed. (There should not be any extra moisture left behind when you squeeze this mixture together).
- In a separate, medium sized bowl, beat the eggs.
- Add the cheese, garlic and parsley.
- Combine with the soaked breadcrumbs and mix together thoroughly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to blend.
The tomato sauce:
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the onions and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the celery and carrots and saute the whole mixture for another 8-10 minutes.
- Add the bay leaf, tomato puree and sugar. Simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Add a little water if sauce becomes too thick.
- Reduce heat to low and add basil leaves.
- Lightly coat all the cheese and egg balls with 1 tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Add the cheese and egg balls and stir fry until lightly golden.
- Remove and add to simmering sauce. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately with extra grated cheese and basil for garnish.
There is an idle time of approximately 45 minutes.
Great as an appetizer or a main (with pasta). Each serving is one 1-inch ball. Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used.
Licia Stellacci McClary
I have been looking for this exact recipe, my grandpa made them but needless to say never followed any recipe. Thank you for sharing it. I’m making it today but with it being lent will be making it more very soon
My pleasure Licia, thanks so much for reaching out.
Hi Maria. My dad always makes them better than my mom. So whenever it’s time for this meal we all vote for my dad to make them. My kids love them too. In passing I love your recipes they are all like my nonna used to make and they bring back so many memories Thanks for sharing
My pleasure Michelina! Thanks so much for your kind words.
Yes Maria, they were so lovely. I have a daughter who only will eat turkey meatballs so this time around my cooking mishap had a happy ending. I always try to remedy any failures with recipes as I hate to throw food away and waste money. Not always a great ending but I love it when it works out…Love your collection of recipes. I look forward to trying many more.
Be well Maria and thank you for sharing your talent with us.
My pleasure Teresa. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your kind words ♥
So I made these a few weeks ago. Since I used cheese that my mom had on hand and was not labeled, they turned out very salty. Luckily I had fried one just to see how the seasoning was and discovered they were too salty. I had a pound of ground turkey that I had just bought and threw that in. They were the best meatballs ever!! We all enjoyed them and made so many that I was able to send some back with my daughter for her college dorm. I still have not purchased the right cheese to make the original recipe but I wanted to share with you that this is a very versatile base to any meatbalI. It was also easy for my Mom to eat as she has trouble chewing meat so this is a great protein boost for her. Thanks for a great recipe
Teresa thanks so much for sharing your experience with this recipe! What a genius idea you had!!! It sounds like the turkey meatballs became super moist in the process. Looks like you found a great option for your mom.
Great comment. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I can not thank you enough for this recipe. My mom would make these quite often and I would never pay attention to how she made them. As she is now 86 and I long for these delicious balls of cheese, she swears to me that she never made them. Reading your recipe, I can visualize all the ingredients as she had them out. I know I will be making these very soon and besides having a delicious meal, I hope to jog Nonna’s memory and create a smile……Food is so much more about the people than the meal. Thank you for this most nostalgic post. Salute!
It is my pleasure Teresa. Food really does have the ability to nourish us on so many levels. I hope the recipe is similar to the one you grew up with. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
How have I not eaten these before?!?? Wow they look amazing. Thanks for introducing me 🙂 This is my first time participating in Sunday Supper and I’m loving all the fantastic recipes!!
This is my first #SundaySupper event also! Couldn’t resist initiating with an Italian theme 😉 This is truly an example of Italian regional cooking…not so mainstream. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂