Shouting may have erupted from her grandmother’s kitchen on a regular basis, but Enrica Monzani knew it was only the good-natured scolding of an Italian woman protecting her hard day’s work. A woman protecting her polpettone.
“Half of what she prepared didn’t arrive at the table because we were always in the kitchen like sharks, picking at something before it was time to eat,” says Monzani, a cooking teacher who writes the recipe blog A Small Kitchen in Genoa.
Slices of polpettone were particularly susceptible to this. In the rest of Italy, polpettone means meatloaf. But in Liguria, it’s a baked casserole made from mashed potatoes and green beans bound together with a bit of egg and cheese. Shops called sciamadde sell slices of polpettone wrapped in paper bags for easy eating on the street. “It’s perfect for stealing,” Monzani says.
The tender interior of classic polpettone gets contrasting crunch thanks to a crispy breadcrumb topping. It also is defined by its signature flavor—marjoram, a floral relative of oregano that the Genoese most often pair with vegetables.
We loved the dish’s fresh simplicity and couldn’t help but be reminded of green bean casserole. The Italian version, however, was lighter and bolder thanks to the lack of heavy ingredients such as cream, which can dull American casseroles.
For texture, we preferred to keep both the potatoes and green beans slightly chunky. And in a nod to the traditional American green bean casserole, we included savory cremini mushrooms. It made the perfect tender base for a crispy Parmesan and breadcrumb topping, all of it aromatic with fresh marjoram. Perfect for stealing.