meatballs and sauce are part of my family comfort food canon. a close friend of my parents comes from a big italian family from providence, and my brothers and i grew up on her family meatball recipe. i have made these meatballs in every place i have ever lived, including my off-campus apartment senior year of college, my tiny london flat, and the apartment i shared with my swiss roommate in venice.
|meatballs and sauce in my venetian kitchen, stilo americano|
the problem with meatballs in the traditional method is that they aren't particularly healthy; they get fried in oil, and sometimes can be quite dense.
my mother stumbled upon this recipe from ron suhanosky, formerly of sfoglia in new york city and author of the italian table. after making meatballs the same way for almost 30 years, i was shocked and curious when she told me that these were the best meatballs she had ever tasted, and would now be the only meatballs she would be making!
i don't own the cookbook, so my mom gave me the recipe over the phone. there may be some minor differences from what is printed in the book (there was a glass of wine on each end of the phone...) but the overall effect is a light, fluffy, flavorful meatball that leaves you satisfied but not overly full.
the very best meatballs
3 lbs ground beef (i used 90% lean)
2 cups of ricotta (i used part skim)
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of parsley, finely chopped
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. in a large bowl, add all ingredients (red pepper flakes/salt and pepper should be adjusted for your taste.)
3. mix well with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated.
4. using an ice cream scoop (or your hands) make meatballs (mine were slightly larger than a golf ball.)
5. place meatballs on a baking sheet (they can be close together since they won't expand in the oven.)
6. bake for 20-25 minutes until browned on the outside.
that's it! easy, right?
i added the meatballs to sauce i was already simmering on the stove.
here's what you need for sauce:
2-3 cans of peeled whole tomatoes (the big cans)
1 clove of garlic, minced
optional, but delicious:
1 stick of pepperoni, cut into 1 inch slices
1 package of italian sausage (cook this for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees first, then cut links in half)
1. in a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat (2 tbsp)
2. add garlic and cook until golden.
3. add tomatoes; crush them with a wooden spoon (or your hands if you're careful and won't burn yourself!)
4. add pepperoni slices and cooked italian sausage (if you're using them.)
5. add the meatballs once they're cooked.
6. simmer the whole thing for up to 3 hours on medium low heat (but you can serve after an hour.)
* i don't cover the pot because i like to evaporate the water to make sauce nice and thick.
|voila! served with garlic crostini to get all of the great sauce, caesar salad, and a glass of red wine :)|
ps - apologies for the photo quality; the steam from the kitchen made these a little blurry!