Monday, June 15, 2015

Authentic Italian Meatballs and Homemade Marinara Sauce

It was a fluke really, how this whole weekly “Italian Night” tradition took place in our home.

Our son Tavin (now six), was slightly jealous of mine and Jared’s romantic Valentine’s Dinner.
So he asked one day in early April if I would make a romantic dinner for him, too. How could I turn down such a beautiful request from such an adorable face?

So that night, as he was showering, I set up our front dinette-area to look like an authentic restaurant. And the rest is now history…or should I say, “tradition.”

Yep, he was one happy little boy. I pulled out all the stops for our in-home Italian restaurant theme. I found a fantastic playlist of Italian restaurant music on youtube, we had appetizers, bread sticks, dancing, dinner, clanging of glasses with sparkling lemonade, and even to-go boxes.

This also happened after I got really sick one week and couldn’t eat anything! The very first thing I craved when I could hold something down was authentic meatballs. So that Friday, I went on a hunt for the perfect meatball that I remembered having from one of my favorite restaurants in town that’s now closed. I eventually found myself at THE most authentic Italian deli in this area, Tenuta’s. Seriously, if you’re ever passing through Kenosha, Wisconsin, this is one place you HAVE to go to…even former President George W. Bush made a pit stop there on his 2004 Presidential campaign, and I was there to witness it all! (One of the most memorable days of my life!)

So anyway…

The meatballs were quite delicious, however…it was not what I was hoping for.

So the next time I planned meatballs for our Italian Night, I was on a hunt for a good meatball recipe. I searched the internet high and low, but ultimately found my way to my cookbook cupboard (yes, I really have an entire cupboard filled with delightful cookbooks!). And this is what I found:

Uh-huh. That’s right. [insert happy dance here]

When my mother passed away, thankfully I was her only child and all her cookbooks and recipes were mine—ALL MINE!! And this is where I found a little piece of Italian heaven, right on page 102.

Polpette Di Manzo” Meatballs

This is it, folks. This is the stuff. You will never, ever turn back. Ever. We actually make this a meal. No noodles. Just saucy bites of heaven.

Here, let me just enlarge this a bit for you…

Now many of you may be thinking, “Ew, look at all that grease.” No, honey, that’s not grease, that’s lovely EVOO, better known as Extra Virgin Olive Oil from my homemade marinara sauce, and you DON’T want to discard that river of goodness, it’s going to keep your meatballs nice and moist.

So shall we get to it then?

For the *meatballs you’ll need:
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup grated Romano or parmesan cheese (I used parmesan, and actually the last time I made this I only had 1/2 cup left so I improvised with a 1/2 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend—OH WOW!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (I used about 2 teaspoons dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used about 2 teaspoons…I like garlic!)
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I made my own from Italian bread)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 –1 cup EXTRA breadcrumbs in a bowl
  • Olive oil for frying
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. To quote the cookbook, “The mixture should be solid, not mushy. If too mushy, add more breadcrumbs.”
  3. Shape into any size meatballs you desire, big or small, it doesn’t really matter! However, your cooking time will, so keep that in mind.
  4. Roll meatballs in the extra breadcrumbs.
  5. You can use two large skillets, or work in batches with one large skillet. Heat a small-medium amount of olive oil in the skillets. Place meatballs in the hot, hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Brown on all sides.
  6. Pour homemade marinara sauce over meatballs (recipe to follow). Be careful, once it hits the hot pan it will sizzle and splatter,but I LIKE that! You can also top the meatballs with a touch of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Place skillet(s) in oven for approximately 20-25 minutes.
  8. Serve as a main dish, over cooked noodles, or over a freshly buttered piece of Italian bread.
  9. Close your eyes and moan…
*Adapted from the cookbook, Elodia Rigante’s Italian Immigrant Cooking.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

This is so easy you’ll wonder why you EVER bought it in a jar, I know I did! And it’s so much cheaper.

  • 1 large can of *crushed tomatoes, unseasoned or with basil
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste. This can be put in whole, or roughly chopped.
  • Olive oil
  • A pinch of basil or Italian seasoning (if using unseasoned tomatoes)
  • A pinch of sugar
  1. Pour tomatoes into medium saucepan.
  2. Drizzle in a nice amount of olive oil (again, this is depending on your preference; I usually use a good amount).
  3. Throw in the garlic (if you’re using whole cloves, just make sure to mash them with a potato masher once they’ve cooked for a while).
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
*NOTE: You can use a can of whole tomatoes. Actually, authentic marinara is made with whole tomatoes, not crushed. I’ve made it both ways and I like the consistency of the crushed better.

Please leave me a comment if you’ve made these and let me know how many times your eyes rolled to the back of your head in pure ecstasy. 

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