Along with pizza and spaghetti with tomato sauce, meatballs must be the most internationally recognized Italian food. The meatballs found in the US and then that spread around the world are derived from recipes of the millions of immigrants that came through Ellis Island to the US from Naples and Southern Italy in the 1920s.
But meatballs in “Italian-American” food have been corrupted. When those Italian immigrants came to the US and found the plentiful meats at low prices, they decided richness, wealth and status was an opposite to the practice of adding bread to meatballs to “stretch” them; to feed a large family on a little meat. But these all meat meatballs turn out to be dry, tasteless and basically spherical hamburgers. Americans are returning to the traditions of those Italians of nearly 100 years ago and using the “stretchers” in this recipe but this time for taste.
Meatballs can be served alone or after they have been simmered in a tomato sauce as a main course. “Spaghetti and meatballs” is a totally American invention but one worth perfecting.
Recipe for about 20 meatballs.
Ingredients and equipment:
- 3 cups of crustless bread cut into 1-inch cubes (day old bread is great for this)
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 ½ pounds of ground meat (2 different varieties of meat – ¾ pounds each)
- Ground beef (not lean) and ground pork
- Ground beef (not lean) and ground veal
- Ground Beef (not lean) and ground turkey
- Ground turkey and ground pork
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup grated Pecorino cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped Parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Heavy bottom pot
- Spatula and a pair of tongs
- Ice cream scoop
Note: There are many many variations of this recipe. Try adding more or less bread or meat. Add pines and raisins for a sweet and sour taste. Add chopped onions for a sweeter taste. Add grated lemon peel for a Lemon scented meatball.
Place the crustless bread in a bowl and add the milk to the bowl.
In another bowl, add the meats, eggs, Pecorino cheese and parsley but do not mix.
Squeeze the bread with your hands and drain out the milk. Crush the bread with your hand to tear it up. Add the squeezed bread to the bowl with the other ingredients. Add salt and pepper (you’ve got to just guess on the seasoning). Combine with a hand to mix completely but not so far as to make it a paste.
Heat the olive oil in the heavy bottom pot and heat to just smoking. Using an ice cream scoop and your hands, create a uniform meatball, form with your hands to create a sphere and gently place in the heated oil. Fry as many meatballs at the same time as you’d like but don’t crowd the pan, it will drop the oil temperature.
You’ll need to gently turn the meatballs to fry all over. Use a spatula to loosen the meatballs from the pot and then use the tongs to reposition the meatballs to fry another raw side of the meatball. Keep turning the meatballs every 2 to 3 minutes until fried and crusty all over (about 10 minutes total). The trick here is a crust on the outside and a soft texture on the inside.
Remove the meatballs to paper towels to drain or place in a prepared tomato sauce to simmer and impart the flavor to the sauce.
- Tomato Sauce