Updated 2010-11-07 20:25:57 ID=633:0

© 2010 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

Italian-American Meatballs -Always a Crowd Pleaser!

We all know and love the quintessential Italian-American dish, Spaghetti and Meatballs. Every Italian cook has her own version, and I've been making my version since I was a young girl in my mom's kitchen. But what exactly makes a good meatball? I'll share my secrets and methods to making a real crowd-pleaser.

Oh there's nothing like a good meatball -loaded with the freshest of ingredients, lightly browned, then simmered in a good Basic Marinara Sauce until the flavors meld! This is Italian Mama cooking at its best! When you're hungry- just like pizza - Spaghetti and Meatballs is always a welcome favorite that pleases everyone.

I started making meatballs when I was still in grade school, learning at my mother's side as she made hers. My mom died when I was nine, and for some reason, why I don't know, we were "a meatball-less family" for a while there after. However, when it's cold and crisp outside, there's nothing that quite satisfies like a really good meatball. So I decided to start making my own version for the family.

By this time I was in junior high and had already taken the mandatory "Home-Ec." The recipes were terrible tasting! But, I realized then that I REALLY liked to cook, so I took on more cooking responsibilities at our restaurant as well in our home-kitchen. I really wanted to recreate the taste of my mother's meatballs, so I started experimenting with different ingredient combinations for the meatballs. My recipe box is still loaded with all the recipes that document my "meatball-evolution."

What I learned through trial and error is a great meat ball is well-textured moist and tender mound of flavors that complement each without overpowering. I learned that the best way to make a good meatball is to start with all fresh ingredients so it stays moist and flavorful. When the diner bites into the meatballs, he should see, smell and taste the individual flavors and nuances. That's what makes a great meat ball orgasmic!

©2010 The Romantic Table, Italian Meat Balls 2010-11-07 19:53:18:267
©2010 The Romantic Table

Oh there's nothing like a good meatball -loaded with the freshest of ingredients, lightly browned, then simmered in a good Basic Marinara Sauce until the flavors meld
You do NOT want a dry meatball! The first mistake is when cooks use dry breadcrumbs for the filler, they dry out the meatball during the frying process, and it's more like eating a ball of heartburn! I recommend using fresh breadcrumbs (French bread or Shepherds bread).

The second mistake is too much lean meat. I recommend mixing with one-part ground pork to three parts ground beef shoulder.

Finally do not forget the aromatics! It's important to only use the freshest possible. I personally think that freshly cut Italian Parsley is gorgeous and flavorful in a meatball. It really shows your guests that it's as fresh as it gets! If you have fresh oregano available use it as well. Otherwise use a good quality dried oregano. Italian Seasoning may be substituted as well.

Some ingredients need to be cooked first -don't put uncooked onions or garlic in the raw meatball, they will never cook enough in the mixture to mellow out, and will be very harsh tasting. Saute the onion (I prefer white onion) and minced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil first. Then used the same now "seasoned pan" to brown your meat balls when done for even a little more flavor.

Finally, I add an often missing-ingredient in meatball recipes: freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Add a beaten egg or two to bind the mixture and you are in business.

I personally like to serve my meatballs in my Basic Marinara Sauce. After you brown the meatballs, you then add them to the Marinara Sauce and simmer for an hour or so. Serve the meat balls and marinara sauce over spaghetti and you have an Italian American Classic.

This is a really great meal for a crowd that you can make in advance. All you need is a little Parmesan cheese to offer at the table, some crushed red pepper flakes for those that like a little kick, a nice salad, and a nice bottle of wine to make the meal complete!

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A tip from Sue!

Eating well with no guilt!

For those health-conscious, alternate a "healthy meal" just before and after a "splurge meal." You can enjoy the food much more when you're not plagued by guilt! And this keeps you on a self-imposed "mini-diet" and maintains your weight much better than if you haphazardly eat at random.