Practice Makes Perfect

At Lista’s Italian Cuisine there were some menu items that only family were allowed to prepare. Sauce was one.  Meatballs were another.  One of the first things I learned at Lista’s was how to hand roll meatballs.

At a time when many people defined Italian food by Spaghetti & Meatballs, there was a constant demand at the restaurant.  So since demand requires supply… we rolled lots and lots of meatballs. 

Our recipe called for 15 pounds of ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, etc. kneaded together in a huge galvanized metal tub and hand rolled to very exacting specifications.  If done right, the meatballs would completely fill a standard 18” x 26” sheet pan. The meatballs were arranged 10 across and 15 down.  150 evenly formed meatballs.  Since we didn’t use a scoop or other measuring device to portion out the meatball mix, we had to learn to do it all by sight and touch. It took me months of practice before I could actually get the “feel” to create the exact size and shape of each meatball.

Dad, on the other hand, was a meatball master!  He could roll perfect meatballs every time.  Almost every time anyone other than Dad rolled meatballs, he would walk by, scan the tray, and spy out the one meatball that was slightly bigger than the others… he would deftly snatch it out of position, pinch off a bit of meat, re-roll it to an almost perfect sphere, and drop it back into place as he passed on by.

[The restaurant version of this recipe used standard 80/20 ground beef.  If you prefer you can substitute a leaner 90/10 ground beef, ground round, or ground chuck – or you can use a “meatball mix” combination of Beef, Pork, and Veal.  I have found that the finer texture of ground turkey or chicken do not work as well with this recipe since the meatballs don’t roll as well.]

To make the Lista’s Seasoned Salt in this recipe:

Combine 6 TBSP Table Salt, 1TBSP Ground Black Pepper, 1 TBSP Granulated Garlic, 1 TBSP Ground Paprika, in a small bowl. Store tightly covered in a dry place. (This is a basic seasoned salt that also works well on grilled or roasted meats.)

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield:  Approx. 18 (1½ oz.) meatballs (enough for 4-6 servings)
Preheat oven to 350

Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs. Ground Beef
2 Large Eggs
½ cup Dry Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
½ cup Plain Quick Cooking Oatmeal (think Quaker Oats)
1 TBL  Dehydrated Minced Onion (or equivalent fresh minced onion)
1 TBL  Dry Parsley Flakes
¼ cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (plus more for garnishing)
1 tsp Lista’s Seasoned Salt (see recipe above)
8 oz. Dry Spaghetti cooked per package directions for “al dente” pasta
6 cups Prepared Lista’s Spaghetti Sauce – heated

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking pan or cookie sheet with foil or parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray (like Pam)
  3. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead it together by hand until completely incorporated … and then knead some more to be sure its mixed very well.
  4. Working with moistened hands, take about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll in your palms to form a tight meatball. Continue until all the meat mixture is used up.
  5. Starting at one corner of the baking pan, line the meatballs up across one short end and make rows so all the meatballs are touching each other – but not packed tight.
  6. Place in the middle of the oven and bake uncovered for approximately 30 minutes until browned and have reached an internal temperature of 165F.
  7. While the meat balls are baking, Heat the sauce on the stove top over med-low heat stirring frequently until warmed through and steaming. Prepare the spaghetti per package directions for “al dente” pasta. Drain and return to cooking pot with a few ladles of sauce and toss to coat.
  8. Serve the spaghetti on rimmed plates with 3 meatballs, topped with additional sauce and a generous sprinkling of Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

More Meatballs…

 

Like my wife, Andrea, many of you have a food intolerance, allergies, dietary restrictions, or health choices that require you to avoid certain ingredients.  I have adapted the above meatball recipe to meet for my family’s needs and I hope it also works for yours.


Gluten & Dairy Free Meatballs

Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Beef or Turkey
½ lb. Mild Italian Sausage (about 2 links – casing removed) – or use all beef or turkey
2 Large Eggs
½ cup Cooked & Cooled Organic Quinoa
½ cup Gluten Free Oatmeal (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
2 TBL  Finely Minced Sweet Onion
1 TBL  Dry Parsley Flakes
½ tsp Dry Italian Seasoning
¼ tsp Granulated Garlic
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil or parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray (like Pam).
    NOTE: You can also cook these in a standard or mini muffin pan – this works well when using ground turkey as they can be harder to roll and keep in a ball shape.
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead it together by hand until completely incorporated.
  2. Working with moistened hands, take about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll in your palms to form a tight meatball. Continue until all the meat mixture is used up.
  3. Starting at one corner of the baking pan, line the meatballs up across one short end and make rows so all the meatballs are touching each other – but not packed tight.
  4. Place in the middle of the oven and bake uncovered for approximately 30 minutes until lightly browned and have reached an internal temperature of 165F.

Let us know how your meatballs turn out!  And as always we love to hear your comments, questions, or memories of Lista’s Italian Cuisine. 

So until next time remember, “The sauce make the difference!”

One thought on “Practice Makes Perfect

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