Cathy's Blog

Ultimate Meatballs


Photo by Colin Harrison

With all due deference to my Norwegian ancestors (see August 2017 blog: “The Power of Meatballs”), I have discovered a new twist to making spaghetti and meatballs that I can only say makes me swoon. It’s one of those culinary accidents that change my concept of the meaning of ultimate, but I must be honest. I can’t take credit for this discovery:

I’m in Faicco’s on Bleecker Street, the famous destination for all food products Italian, to get ground beef and pork for a spaghetti dinner, as family is coming and I know what they like. The man behind the meat counter hands me two packages, I buy a can of certified Italian imported San Marzano plum tomatoes for the sauce, and head for home to have some fun. When I read the label on the package of ground pork, I’m surprised to find out it’s more pricey than usual, and then I find out why. It’s ground pork tenderloin! Oh-h yes, oh yes! What a difference.  Thank you, Faicco’s.

The Meatballs

1 large egg
1 medium-sized onion, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano
1 cup very good breadcrumbs (see Notes)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork tenderloin

The Sauce (See “Red Sauce,” September 2015 blog)

  1. In a fairly large mixing bowl, beat the egg well. Add grated onion (including juice), salt, pepper, and oregano. Mix well.
  2.  In a smaller bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in the half-and-half. Moisten with  more liquid if necessary. Add to the egg mixture and mix well.
  3. Add the ground beef and ground pork tenderloin. Gently mix by hand.
  4. Pour a scant tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet (preferably cast iron for maximum browning) and fry meatballs over medium-high heat. Remove each meatball as soon as it’s well browned.
  5. Add to red sauce and simmer for at least half an hour so that meatballs will cook thoroughly, become tender, and add flavor to the sauce.
  6. Serve over pasta.

Combining the ingredients in the order listed (meat last) ensures that they will be well distributed without over-mixing the meat, thus maintaining its texture.

Breadcrumbs: This picky cook finds the store-bought kind most unappetizing. Whenever I buy a loaf of really good bread I freeze a few slices in a plastic bag I keep in the refrigerator for that purpose. When I need some crumbs I cube and dry them on a tray in a 200-degree oven (you don’t want to brown them), then grind them in a food processor.

Step 6.  In authentic Italian spaghetti land, one does not add grated cheese to a meat dish. On the other hand, authentic Italians insist that spaghetti and meatballs is an American dish, so I say, do as you please. I like a mixture of grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmesan.

Faicco’s says, “You’re welcome.”

May 31, 2018