Polpette di Cavallo with Salmoriglio (Sicilian Style Horse Meatballs with Lemon Sauce)

Polpette di Cavallo with Salmoriglio

These meatballs are inspired by Sicilian style polpette, which are often served in or with a salmoriglio, or lemon, sauce. They are actually made from ground horse meat, which is a traditional ingredient in many parts of Italy, including Sicily. 

It’s still common to find horse meat eaten in many parts of the world, including Italy (and Canada!). I myself grew up eating it as a Dutch style lunch meat, cured and smoked. To learn more about the history of eating horse, check out this article. 

Horse meat can be found for sale in some special places, but in Quebec, you can still find it in the meat department in pretty much any grocery store as it’s eaten there quite regularly. 

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea though, so if you want to swap the horse out for another meat, I don’t blame you! 

Lean beef or venison would also work very well for these meatballs. 


  • Prep Time25 min
  • Cook Time15 min
  • Total Time40 min
  • Yield12 meatballs
  • Serving Size3 meatballs


For the meatballs

  • 1lb (454g) ground horse meat, lean beef, or wild game
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (8g) fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup (90g) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) + 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra virgin olive oil

For the Salmoriglio Lemon Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice



Mix all of the meatball ingredients together except for the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. 

Try not to over mix. 


Wet your hands and form 12 meatballs, about the size of golf balls. 

Heat up the 2 tablespoons (30ml) of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the meatballs until well-browned and at least 160°F (71°C) in the middle. This should take approximately 15 minutes. 


Meanwhile, bash the garlic clove with a pinch of salt and the oregano in a mortar and pestle or food processor until it becomes a fine paste. 

Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix well. Taste. Add some water if you find it’s too strong. 


Once the meatballs are done, put them into a bowl and pour the sauce over them, so it settles into a pool on the bottom. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and serve immediately. Enjoy! 

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