Camille’s Cooking: Good ol’ fashioned meatballs

August 8, 2013 Editorial Staff
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BY CAMILLE ORRICHIO LOCCISANO

I hear a lot of people say that Italian food is not just about spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, they are correct. However, I believe that such a fact has caused us to lose sight of how a dish of Italian meatballs is just so charmingly delicious in its simplicity.

There are many ways to prepare meatballs, and I have serve this favorite dish in many variations. I have also explored how meatballs are a world-wide comfort food and enjoyed among many different cultures and ethnic cuisines.

The French call them boulettes and prepare them with deep flavorful spices. Turkish cooks include rice in their meatballs, and in Greece they are often made with ground lamb and mint. As for Italians, their meatballs are traditionally simmered in a rich tomato sauce.

The following is my basic recipe for Italian-style meatballs. However, do not hesitate to reinvent your meatballs further. Experiment with other herbs, such as cilantro or tarragon. Get creative by adding nutmeg or cayenne pepper. The possibilities are endless!

 

CAMILLE’S MEATBALLS

 

2 cups Italian bread, cubed

1/2 cup milk

6 garlic cloves, peeled

10 leaves fresh basil, plus more

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more

2 pounds of ground beef

1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 eggs

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 small onion, diced

2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh mozzarella cheese

 

In a bowl, soak Italian bread cubes in milk. Squeeze out excess milk and discard. Set aside the wet Italian bread. Place garlic and basil in a food processor and stream in the olive oil as ingredients pulse.

In a large mixing bowl, shred the wet Italian bread into very small pieces and mix with ground beef, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, parsley, eggs and pine nuts. Add the garlic, basil and olive oil mixture. Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Roll meat into one-and-a-half-inch balls. In a sauce pot, warm additional olive oil over medium heat, just enough to cover the bottom. Add the red pepper flakes, and allow the flakes to sizzle slightly and flavor the oil. Stir in the onions and cook until tender.

Add meatballs in batches and brown on each side. Remove meatballs to a plate. Stir and scrape drippings in the pot, and add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. Return meatballs back to pot and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Add more fresh basil or parsley.

Serve meatballs piping hot with a favorite pasta or on warm toasted hero bread. Top with melted mozzarella cheese!


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