I hadn’t made meatballs and spaghetti in a very long time until this past winter when Steve seemed to crave the dish. Just like riding a bike, once you’ve made meatballs the recipe and the routine seem to be second-nature so it didn’t take long before I had a freezer full of the little guys. Since I always have a freezer full of marinara sauce, all winter I have had the makings of a quick Italian dinner on hand.
I remember being taught to make Italian style meatballs – there are others, you know – by a neighbor who was from southern Italy when I was about 9 or 10. The one thing that she did that I don’t always see in other’s recipes is to add a finely grated carrot. Something I still do. She also used a mixture of beef and pork with a little sausage but, nowadays, I use either very lean ground beef or lean ground turkey (which, by the way, if you are using it for fat and calorie reduction, be sure to check the label or with the butcher as much of the ground turkey in the supermarket meat fridge is not very lean at all).
You can find my recipe for marinara sauce in a July 2010 post but, of course, you can use your own recipe or, Heaven forbid, a commercially bottled variety.
2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey or a mixture of ground beef, pork, and veal
(you can also add ½ pound of crumbled Italian sausage in place of ½
pound of the meat)
3 large eggs
1 small onion, peeled and grated
1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled, and grated
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately ⅓ cup cool water
Olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
Place the meat in a medium mixing bowl. Add the eggs, onion, carrot, parsley, and garlic, mixing lightly to begin to combine. Add the bread crumbs and salt and pepper along with about half of the water. Mix gently to just combine but don’t over-mix or the mixture will tighten up and the cooked meatballs will be tough. If the mixture seems dry, add the remaining water.
Gently and quickly form the meat mixture into 2-inch round balls by rolling it between your palms. Set the balls aside as they are formed.
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large cast iron or other heavy skillet. When very hot, but not smoking, begin adding the meatballs without crowding the pan. Fry, turning frequently, for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a double layer of paper towel to drain. If necessary, wipe out the pan and add fresh oil to continue frying until all meatballs have been browned.
At this point, you can add them to a gently simmering pot of marinara sauce or you can freeze them for later use. If the latter, place the meatballs on a sheet pan in a single layer in the freezer. When frozen, pack in containers or resealable plastic bags. Label and date and freeze until ready to use.