Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nonna's Meatballs

I want to thank everyone who called or e-mailed me with regards to my Mother’s Day story in the Montreal Gazette. The accolades are very much appreciated. My grandmother was quite taken back by seeing her picture in the paper and still wonders how much I paid for it. I know there are people who didn’t see the article so in this post I’m reprinting the article exactly as it appeared (except for the material which was cut) with the sincere hope than many of you will give these wonderful meatballs a try.

Nonna's Meatballs

When I was seven years old, my grandmother had given me the best job I would ever have: I was to tell her if the meatballs were ready. I remember watching the big pot of simmering tomato sauce, with the meatballs bobbing up and down, wondering when I would get to taste another one. It’s no wonder I never wanted to eat sitting at the table, I was way too full from having eaten in the kitchen. To this day, our meagre attempts still don’t rival my grandmother’s tender, flavourful meatballs. I am still blessed to have my grandmother with me. My son, who is eight, has taken over my job; he now works hand in hand with his grandmother as the “official meatball tester.”

This recipe will make 25 to 30 meatballs, so have your whole family over!

½ kilo of minced beef (medium or lean)
½ kilo of minced pork
½ kilo of minced veal
3 cups of seasoned fresh breadcrumbs (we make our own by putting day old bread, parsley, oregano and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulsing to a rough chop. If the bread is too dry you won’t get the same results.)
½ cup of water
3 eggs
½ cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
A pot of homemade tomato sauce, prepared in advance and heated.

Put all of the meat in a very large bowl. (A salad bowl works well here). In a smaller bowl, combine the water and the breadcrumbs. With your fingers, work the bread crumbs until they become mushy, the bread should look like oatmeal (If you find the bread to be dry, add a bit more water.)
Add the breadcrumb mush to the meat and incorporate. Add the eggs, cheese, salt and pepper and mix it all thoroughly with your hands. The hands are also an important ingredient, they add the love necessary to make these meatballs taste the way they should.
Form into meatballs somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball.

Add the raw meatballs to the simmering tomato sauce, after 45 minutes find a meatball tester and eat with a big bowl of pasta. (Note: do not stir the sauce as soon as the meatballs are added- they are still too soft and will loose their shape if stirred. Let the sauce return to a simmer and wait fifteen minutes before stirring carefully.)
Meatballs also freeze very well. If you don’t want to cook all of them, freeze them by placing the meatballs on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer-once the meatballs are frozen transfer to a freezer bag. They keep about one month in a ziplock, and six months (and more) vacuum-packed.

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