Makes about 2 dozen meatballs
By Dennis W. Viau; from my Italian mother’s recipe.
When it comes to spaghetti and meatballs, it’s all about
the meatballs and the sauce. Make delicious meatballs and
use an excellent marinara sauce and you can use any storebought dry spaghetti. To go really homemade: Make your
own pasta. Recipes for Pasta From Scratch and Marinara are
available on this web site.
My Italian mother made meatballs the size of your fist. They
were like mini-meat loaves. This recipe makes traditional, more moderately sized meatballs. Although I
am using fresh pasta dough to make my spaghetti, feel free to buy the dry spaghetti sold in the grocery
stores. This recipe doesn’t provide the instructions for making your own sauce. See the recipe for
homemade Marinara Sauce on the web site. A good jarred sauce that you know and trust will suffice.
1 pound (450g) lean ground beef1 (see notes at end)
1 pound (450g) ground pork
4 large eggs (about 55g each, weighed with the shell on)
6 tablespoons dry (or fresh) Italian parsley flakes
½ cup (125g) ricotta cheese
½ cup (50g) grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder or ½ medium onion, finely chopped and sautéed until tender, or caramelize
½ teaspoon oregano flakes; dry or fresh
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg, about ¼ teaspoon
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup (60g) bread crumbs (or as needed)2
1 tablespoon salt (shape and cook a small patty to taste for salt before adding the salt)
Vegetable oil for browning the meatballs
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cook a small amount and taste for salt.
Shape the meatballs with your hands using 3 to 5 ounces (85 to 142g), rounding well (they should be
about 1½ inches (4cm) wide). Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet, making sure it is heated well before
adding the meatballs. For even browning, there should be enough oil to come about halfway up the sides
of the meatballs. (Some recipes recommend rolling the meatballs in bread crumbs before browning.) Fry
until golden brown on all sides. Place browned meatballs on paper towels to drain before adding to the
sauce. Cook thoroughly in sauce, about ½ hour.
As an alternative, the browned meatballs can be placed in a baking pan, covered with foil, and baked at
325°F (165°C) for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on paper towels to drain for a
few minutes, and then add to the heated sauce.
The Step By Step guide begins on the following page.
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My mise en place. A few items to explain here: That plastic basket to the upper-left is a nylon coffee
filter. I make my own ricotta cheese3. (To make your won, heat some milk in a saucepan to about
120°F (50°C) and add an acid like tartaric acid or lemon juice, a little at a time, stirring until the
liquid breaks into curds and whey. Place in a strainer and allow to drain. Discard the whey.) The
rectangular package in the front is caramelized onion. I buy the 10-pound bag of onions at the
warehouse store and caramelize the lot. It takes about 3 hours. Then I divide them into ½-onion
portions, seal in little plastic bags, and store in the freezer. The creamy round ball wrapped in plastic
near the center is pasta dough. Not shown is my homemade marinara sauce.
Put all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon. Shape a little
patty, about 1 inch wide, and fry in a little oil. Taste for salt. Add salt, if needed, to the mixture until you
get the salt level where you like it.
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I prefer my meatballs to be smaller than the ones my mother made. This meatball is about 1½ inches
(4cm) wide.
In an Italian cooking course we shaped all the meatballs first, set them on a tray, and then began
browning them. It works for me. As you can see in this picture, I ended up with 29 meatballs. In that class
we also rolled the meatballs in additional bread crumbs before browning. My mother never did this.
27. The Elegant Art of Trailer Park White Trash Mobile Home Cooking—copyright 2011, all rights reserved.
I have plenty of skillets. I use two when browning the meatballs. This batch fits in the two skillets, which
makes the job go quickly. I also use plenty of oil, almost enough to come halfway up the sides of the
meatballs. This browns the meatballs more evenly. It also helps to prevent them from developing flat
spots as they cook, which happens when you work with only a small amount of oil.
Remove them from the skillet when browned and place on absorbent paper to drain.
You can either cook the meatballs in your sauce, or you can place them in a baking pan and continue
cooking in the oven. Cover the pan with foil. They’re already browned, so I set the oven to 325°F (165°C).
In either case, they can cook for an additional 30 minutes, but they’re probably already cooked almost
all the way through after the browning because they are rather small meatballs. When I am making a
small meal for only a few people, I use both methods, as the sauce pot isn’t large enough to contain all the
meatballs. Some guests prefer them baked because they have firmer, more al dente texture.
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When I can, I make my own pasta. On the web site, in the Recipe Archive, is a recipe/procedure for
making your own pasta from scratch.
I have a spaghetti attachment for my pasta machine. It cuts and shapes the dough into long rounded
strings. You can buy dry spaghetti and cook it according to package directions. The spaghetti isn’t the
star here. The sauce and the meatballs get all the attention. The pasta is simply the vehicle that delivers
the sauce to the mouth. However, make your own pasta too and suddenly the meal becomes something
27. The Elegant Art of Trailer Park White Trash Mobile Home Cooking—copyright 2011, all rights reserved.
And here is a dish of spaghetti and meatballs, all homemade. Although this is a common food, not likely
to impress your guests if they think you bought everything at the store, tell them you made everything
from scratch and it suddenly becomes a special meal.
The traditional mixture is 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, and 1/3 veal. Veal is expensive and difficult to find unless you
live near a butcher shop. So I’m substituting with beef and pork.
I seem to always need 1 cup of bread crumbs whenever I make this recipe.
Granted, it’s not true ricotta cheese, which is made from the whey left over from making cheese. It’s
more like cottage cheese, but it works fine for this recipe.
27. The Elegant Art of Trailer Park White Trash Mobile Home Cooking—copyright 2011, all rights reserved.