Mondeghili, known as polpette or meatballs outside of Milano, were described as “a kind of polpette made with ground beef, bread, eggs and similar ingredients” by Francesco Cherbini in his Milanese - Italian Dictionary (1839).
The name is originally derived from an Arabic word which later evolved into the Spanish albondiga. In fact, it was the Arabs that taught the Spanish to make a ball of minced meat and then fry it.
The recipe itself is rooted in the traditional peasant practice of letting nothing go to waste. It is a tasty way to use up leftover beef (boiled or roasted), which is minced and mixed with sausage, raw salami or mortadella (often from liver), eggs, milk-soaked bread, grana padano cheese, garlic and nutmeg.
This flavoursome mixture is rolled into large balls that are slightly squashed before being coated with breadcrumbs and fried in butter.
Mondeghili make an excellent second course that goes well with a light salad or potatoes and are sometimes served in a tomato sauce.