Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making Meatballs... like a little old Italian lady

Dear Diary, 
I remember a few years ago, as a new mom and wife, I would call my mom or mother in law to ask them for recipes.  Normally, I'd come to find out I didn't have exactly what the recipe called for so I was forced to improvise.  If I didn't have breadcrumbs, I could smash up cheez its.  If we didn't have one kind of soup, I'd use another.  Slowly, as my repertoire for meals increased, I became more confident to open up the fridge and cupboards and answer the question, "Ma- what's for dinner?" Over the years, planning and preparing dinner for my family has transformed from a dreaded chore to something I am proud to do.  My meatballs are the bomb!

This is a recipe from my mother-in-law with some of my own twists and secret techniques.    
Behold... my meatballs!

For the meat mix… sometimes you can find “meatloaf” mix packaged in the meat section of the grocery store… At my local grocery store (Hillers), it’s usually in a cooler just across the meat counter and looks like 3 ground meets with a pepper ring pressed into the top.  Otherwise, I have to ask the butcher to for the mix.  If you are in a pinch, you can just use all beef or even all turkey for a more lean meatball.
For the sauce, we like Classico- garlic and roasted red peppers because it delicious and sold at Costco for a good price.  We switch it up and eat Prego, Emeral and other sauces too.  I try to look for ones without any funky too hard to pronounce ingredients.  Also, I will share a homemade marinara recipe soon- when I feel more confident about it. 
~1.5 lbs of meat: 1/3 parts ground beef, 1/3 parts ground veal, 1/3 parts ground pork
1/3 cup (ish?) Shredded parmesan cheese (use some grated too if you have it.)
1/3 cup (ish?) bread crumbs
1/4 cup (ish?) marina sauce (to mix in the meat- the secret to moist juicy balls)
2 eggs
garlic powder
onion powder
pinch of salt
some (10) grinds of peppercorn
To go with the meatballs, I suggest a pasta (angel hair is my favorite)/ 1 jar of marinara sauce (our favorite is classic preparing with it)
Get creative with some spices if you want… some oregano, paprika and parsley are good too. My mother in law calls uses what she calls “holy trio”… onion powder, paprika and garlic salt.
These measurements are all gross estimates.  I like to sing some Sinatra as I sprinkle in the spices… “start spreadin’ the news, I’m leaving today… ” 
Put it all in a bowl and mix it all together. (I use a potato masher so my hands aren’t freezing and gross.) 
Then form the meatballs. (I use a small ice cream scooper to keep my hands clean and to get even sized balls.) Plop them out on some cooking sheets or wax paper. 
Start to heat the skillet (medium- 4.5)… add olive oil and get some fresh minced garlic into it when it gets warm.  The garlic should just have a little sizzle and not burn. You can also sauté chopped onions as well.   
While that’s going, form the meatballs… I do a rough ball shape (you can do smooth balls but I l like them to have some sides so they cook better in the skillet.  Put the balls into the pan; rotate them every few minutes until all the sides are browned.  Then pour marina sauce into the skillet and cover it.  Simmer it on low (1-3) for as long as you can.  Boil the pasta (al dente!) while the meatballs cook in the sauce.   We eat lots of different pastas. Our favorite with meatballs is angel hair pasta (wheat).  As soon as the noodles are done, drain and immediately pour some sauce or olive oil over them to avoid sticking.  Indulge!

I have to work on getting some photos of my finished plates- By that time, we are usually too hungry to remember to take a picture. 

(and... as I almost always suggest... let the kids help!)
TIME SAVER! Make Meatloaf instead with the same recipe! If you are short or time, you can skip the whole meat "ball" making steps. Mix all the ingredients, form a loaf and put it into a meatloaf pan.  Bake at 350… for 40 minutes (give or take).  I usually cut through the middle to see how it looks- mixing in the marinara sauce to the meat turns it a little “red” in color anyway… so don’t overcook it! When it comes out of the oven, I pour some marinara onto the top of the loaf right away.

These are good to cook and freeze for later too. 

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