Tuna patties

Tuna patties

Polpettine di tonno

Helen Cathcart

If you struggle to find sustainable tuna you can also make these patties with sardines, mackerel or pilchards. Living far from the sea I use tinned fish either in oil or brine, which I find works really well. You can flavour the patties with either curry powder or lemon zest, but don’t use both together. For a quick dip you can mix a little curry powder in with the mayonnaise.

For the polpettine


Quantity Ingredient
225g tinned tuna
300g potatoes, cooked and mashed
4 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/2-1 lemon, finely zested
or 2 teaspoons curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To coat the polpette

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons ‘00’ or plain flour
1 large egg, beaten
60g dry breadcrumbs
sunflower oil, for deep-frying
1 lemon, juiced, for serving (optional)
mayonnaise, for serving (optional)
curry powder, to taste (optional)


  1. Mix together in a large bowl the fish, potatoes, parsley, lemon zest or curry powder, and seasoning. Fry the onion in the oil over a medium heat for 5–7 minutes until soft. Add the potato and fish mixture to the pan and stir through until well combined then leave to cool.
  2. Boil the potatoes in their skins and when tender drain. Spear them with a fork and peel off the skin with a knife. Now mash them in a large bowl. Add the rest of the polpette ingredients and use your hands to mix everything together until well blended. Take a piece of the mixture and roll it into a walnut-size ball then flatten it into a patty shape, and then fry this in a little oil until cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary; this way you won’t you wont make and fry all your polpette and then realise you haven’t added enough salt! When you are happy with the flavour make up the rest of the patties. Each one should weigh around 30 g.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or a high-sided frying pan until it is around 175°C or hot enough to make a small piece of bread sizzle as soon as it enters the fat. Prepare the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dip each patty first into the flour and tap off the excess, then into the egg and finally the breadcrumbs gently pressing them in. If you run out of egg, add a dash of milk to the bowl. Gently put the patties into the hot oil in batches so the fryer isn’t over-crowded and fry for around 5 minutes until dark golden brown and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper towels and cut one open to check it is cooked through to the middle. Eat as soon as they are cool enough to touch.
  4. Serve on their own, with a squeeze of lemon or with some mayonnaise mixed with a little curry powder to taste, if using.

A note about breadcrumbs

  • Breadcrumbs are made (by blitzing in a food processor) either soft from a fresh loaf or dry from one that has become stale.

    If you have only fresh soft bread and you want dry breadcrumbs, break up the loaf into egg-sized chunks and put them into an oven preheated to 180°C for around 15 minutes to crisp up. Next pulse the chunks in a food processor to the desired texture (for very fine dust, remove the breadcrumbs from the processor and rub them through a sieve). Alternatively I like to use Japanese panko breadcrumbs, as they are crisp and don’t seem to absorb too much oil, and can be bought ready-made from most supermarkets.

    However if you want wet, soft breadcrumbs and all your bread is hard, soak stale bread in milk and when it is soft squeeze out the excess milk before transferring to the food processor.

    Breadcrumbs can be frozen; I find keeping little bags of them in my freezer very useful.

    Giancarlo likes to blitz herbs and garlic into his breadcrumbs so that they turn green and are well flavoured before use.
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