Meatballs comfort me in my darkest hours. It’s not that I like them so much. I wouldn’t call them my favorite food. But their symbolism is powerful. They are round like a warm bear hug. They require a loved one to mold them with their own two hands. Each chef has his own way of making them. Of course, in Italian families they are a Sunday Funday staple.
In our house, Nonno is the meatball maker. My son does not each much – especially related to our Italian cuisine – but he eats meatballs. My nephew eats them so joyfully that I wonder if he will turn into a meatball. And my niece will eat one, along with her sauceless spaghetti, every Sunday. The meatball unites generations. It’s a little ball of love with potent powers. It stops tears. It ends wars – at least in our house. A tray of meatballs is the sign of peace.
The How To
1/2 to 1 lb. Ground pork and/or beef
2 to 3 Eggs
2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Parsley flakes
1 tsp each Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese
Nonno’s Sunday Sauce Or Simple Tomato Sauce
- Put the ground meat in a big bowl. This is a preference call. Some Italian nonnas insist on making meatballs with a mix of ground veal, pork, and beef. My father either combines the pork and beef or just uses one or the other. The good news is you can make this to suit the tastes of your family. Don’t try arguing with any nonna or nonno about why your preference is the best way to do it. You will lose.
- Mix the ground meat with the eggs, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, and Parmigiano cheese. You might want to use less salt and pepper, depending on your dietary needs and preference.
- Roll the meat mixture into balls. I usually use either a cookie or ice cream scoop to start and then finish molding the ball with my hands. Try to keep them all about the same size for more even cooking.
How to Cook
- Cook the meatballs. Now, you can put them on baking sheets and cook them in the oven. Or you can fry them (as I did in the photo above). The baked ones are not bad. But you should put some oil on your baking sheet and open one up to make sure they are cooked through before taking them out of the oven. (Whenever I’ve cooked meatballs in the oven, I have cooked them at 400 degrees F.) If you’re frying them, heat about a half-inch of olive oil or canola oil in a pan, then put them in and fry them, making sure to brown all sides. Again, I would hack one open to make sure they are getting cooked through. If the outside layer is getting dark too fast, lower the heat.
- The final step is to put the meatballs in sauce. You could cook the meatballs in the sauce or finish cooking them in the sauce. Some people simply add the already cooked meatballs to the warm sauce and serve. My in-laws sometimes like the meatballs with no sauce at all. Mix it up. Surprise me.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.