Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Survive Without an Italian Grandmother

Long ago in a land far away known as the Pennsylvania suburbs I was 23 and working in a mall jewelry store. I was living with my mother, and I had far too much free time on my hands. It was during this period of my life that I began to teach myself to cook. Two things had piqued my interest in culinary craft. One was the store's subscription to Gourmet Magazine. The other is that we were two stores down from a Williams Sonoma. While poking around this expensive cooking wonderland and grabbing a free sample of Monkey Bread one day I picked up their catalog and discovered they published recipes every month. This is how I got my very own recipe for cheese stuffed meatballs.

Every woman is supposed to have a decent spaghetti and meatballs. If your family is Italian, you lucky bitch, you probably inherited a recipe from your grandmother. In this era of our busy career moms, however, good luck if being taught said recipe involved much more then being handed an index card with 40 year old scribbles. The rest of us generic Americans have made due with either the Betty Crocker cookbook or a jar of Ragu and the frozen food aisle. I adore the small spin on the traditional meatball, shoving a hunk of cheese in the middle is not hard to do and makes you seem creative and original, and is also gooey and delicious.

I will admit heavy cheating on this recipe. While I am too much of a snob for Ragu, I admit to Newman's Own Tomato and Basil for the sauce. When I first started cooking this I was so new to the whole "from scratch" idea that after all of the work involved in the meatballs, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind to make the sauce. One day I'll devote a whole day to the project, start the sauce in the morning, make the meatballs, maybe even make some bread to go along with it, but that day is not this day. This day I open a jar of Newman's Own. (Note about the above picture, Will is completely grossed out when I stick my hands in raw meat. I've seen the man kill a spider and build a bookcase, but get him near ground beef and he has the constitution of a five year old girl.)

The recipe I use is huge, and calls for two pounds of spaghetti. I cook one pound of spaghetti, and freeze half of the meatballs and sauce. This work fantastically well, allowing me to have a dinner, a few days of lunches, and then to do it again a few weeks later with almost no effort. It has saved my butt when a guest comes into town, because who doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs?...other then vegetarians who, for obvious reasons, don't count. The recipe also uses a huge amount of olive oil for frying, so if you usually use really expensive olive oil, maybe buy a cheaper bottle for this recipe. In bulk. Despite Will not loving the whole "raw meat" thing, he did help me roll meatballs for this recipe this week. I have had so much practice with this by this point though, he got through about 10 before I had finished all the rest. My sous chef needs meatball rolling practice.
Spaghetti with Stuffed Meatballs (Adapted from Williams Sonoma)

Ingredients:
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground beef
1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more
for garnish
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper1/3 lb. mozzarella or provolone cheese, cut into
1/2-inch cubes
Olive oil for frying
About 6 cups tomato sauce
2 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the milk and bread crumbs. Add the ground pork, veal, beef, the 1/3 cup parsley, the eggs, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix briefly with your hands. Form the mixture into 2-inch balls. Press a mozzarella cheese cube into the center of each ball, sealing it inside.

In a large deep 12" pan on medium-high heat, heat 1/2 inch of oil until almost smoking. Add 1/2 the meatballs and cook until browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray.

Discard the oil in the pan. Pour 1/2 the tomato sauce (or 1 jar, if using jarred) into the pan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes more.

Put the pasta in a warmed large, shallow bowl. Top with the sauce and meatballs and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately and pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table. Serves 10 to 12. (or 2 if you want a few lunches and to freeze half the batch) Make the second batch during your meal, or after, depending on the tone and timing of the evening.

2 comments:

ceecee said...

I love meatballs but I'm too lazy to put int he work to make them - if only I had an Italian Grandma to make them for me! This looks like a great recipe - maybe I'll try it out! Thanks!

Squeaky Gourmet said...

I love this! Making your own sauce is not as difficult or as tedious as we think it is. It is like the Italian version of chicken soup really--toss in the ingredients we want and simmer--much nicer than sauce in a jar!

I love the stuffed meatballs idea!

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