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Boles de Picolat (Catalan Meatballs)

October 2016

Boles de Picolat is also known as Catalan meatballs … and it’s a dish you’ll often find in the south of France, in particularly the Languedoc-Roussillon region. But wait, you might be wondering, isn’t Catalonia in Spain? It very much is, but the northern part of the region is actually in the south of France. As such, there are some interesting overlaps in culinary traditions between Spain and France, including the popularity of sausages and cured hams. This recipe for meatballs is also one of them! This particular Boles de Picolat recipe comes from Chef Anne of our Savor the Flavors of the Languedoc cooking vacation. Variations of this recipe have been in existence since the first century BC.

Discover more about the flavors of the south of France with a delicious culinary vacation.


Serves 6

  • 3/4 cup dried cèpes (mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 inches of day-old baguette
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground veal and pork mixture
  • 2 small onions, finely minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 small dried chili peppers (or to taste), minced. (You can substitute this for about 1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes)
  • 2/3 cup plum tomatoes, crushed
  • 3/4 cup green olives, pitted


1. Soak the cépes in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain.
2. In a bowl, soak the baguette in the milk for about 10 minutes. Then pour out the milk, and squeeze the bread dry.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the veal and pork mixture with 1 onion, 1 garlic clove (that’s been finely minced), bread, parsley, egg, and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon. Season this mixture with salt and pepper and blend until everything is well combined.
4. Roll the meat mixture into a golf-size balls, and put to the side on a baking sheet.
5. Next use a large heavy skillet and heat half a cup of oil over high heat until it’s hot but not smoking. Fry the meatballs in batches so there isn’t too many in the pan at once. Cook them all until they’re deeply brown on all sides. After they’re browned, transfer them to paper towels to drain.
6. Continue this process until all the meatballs have been browned. Once you’re done browning, heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. To the oil, add the remaining minced garlic and onion, and allow it to cook until it turns lightly golden. Then add in the tomato as well as the hot pepper and remaining cinnamon. Cook this, while stirring, for about two to 3 minutes.
7. To the pan, add the meatballs along with around 3 cups of water (you want the water to barely cover the meat).
8. Season this pot of food lightly with salt, and bring it up to a simmer. Cover the pan and allow it to cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.
9. While that’s simmering, bring another small pot of water up to a boil. Once boiling, add in the olives. Bring it back up to a strong boil, and then turn off the heat and drain.
10. Add both the olives and copes to the pot of meat. Cover it back up, and allow it to simmer for another 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
11. Serve the dish with warm white beans or chickpeas tossed with garlic and olive oil on the side.

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