Balls of a Matriarch

Freud would probably have a lot to say about the fact that I’m writing about another meatball recipe. I wonder what though?

Maybe he would say that I secretly wish I was a dog so I could play fetch? Maybe he’d say I have ball envy? Nah….Freud overthinks things too much.

Making this recipe was a long time coming.

Why, you ask?

Well this particular recipe is from my grandmother! My grandmother was mostly Irish in ethnicity, but an American who grew up in the hills of Tennessee. When she was 18 she met my grandfather who was a first generation Italian-American from the same tiny town as me in Indiana.

When she married my grandfather, my great-grandmother taught her how to make one of her son’s favorite meals. Spaghetti and meatballs. That’s what an Italian mother-in-law did when she liked you. Of course, she didn’t reveal all her secrets. Italian mothers are competitive about their cooking. That’s what I’ve told anyway. You can’t have your son preferring his wife’s cooking over a mamma. That’s a big no-no.

Grandma still cooked a delectable meatball, though, especially for a girl from Tennessee.

The whole family loved her meatballs. I was the youngest of all my cousins and I remember sitting at her long family kitchen table, my head peeping out just above the ledge watching as everyone chowed down the meatballs.

Sadly, I was a notorious picky eater as a child and didn’t like Grandma’s meatballs. I loved her spaghetti and would slurp that up, but I can’t remember if I ever even tried them.

That’s a long way of saying, it was time to make this for myself, even though I’m sure it’s un-edible compared to Grandma’s.

Before I dish out the ingredients, I have to make a disclaimer that my sister wrote this recipe down when she was a kid. So, it’s not very accurate in some spots and I had to make guesses. I’ll have my mother read this and see if she has any insight.

What you’ll need for the meatballs

  • 3/4 beef, 1/4 pork  (I’m assuming the measurement is pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon of Parmesan Cheese
  • Crackers or Bread Crumbs (I eyeballed this, but I bet you could look up another recipe and figure it out)
  • 1 or 2 eggs (It’s all about the consistency folks!)
  • Milk (Again, eyeballed it, you just don’t want the mix to be too wet or dry)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of Parsley
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Mint

For the sauce

  • Salt pork (No mention of how much, I’d say 1/4 lb)
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Butter
  • 1/2 – 1 lb of hamburger meat
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons of dry parsley
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 can of Hunt’s Tomato Paste with tomato bits (I think this is actually crushed tomatoes, because I couldn’t find “paste” with bits in it.)
  • 1 can of Contadina Tomato Paste
  • 1-3 tsp. salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions for the meatballs weren’t included, but it’s not too difficult. You’re just going to add all the meatball ingredients together until they are a middle of the road consistency of wetness. Once you’ve found that, you just form them into balls as big or small as you desire and set aside.

The first advice from my grandma regarding the sauce is to use a stainless steel or aluminum pan with a thick bottom. I have to say that if I had had a pan like that, it would have helped things.

Do your best with the deepest pan you’ve got. That’s what I had to do.

The first step is to place enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. Add the pork. When the pork is half cooked, add the onion and cook together until both are nearly brown. Then add the hamburger and mash it together with the pork. Cook this until also almost brown.

While this is happening, mince the garlic. Slide the meat to one side of the pan and then add the garlic to vegetarian side of the pan and cook until lightly browned.

Then she suggests to add butter, but only if it’s needed. I’m guessing if needed means if things start to overcook or stick.

Next add the parsley and the whole tomato, but not the juice. You’re going to add the juice later. Chop that up and then add the two pastes. This is when you add the juice! Finally add your seasonings and the balls. Stir and simmer until you’ve reached the level of thickness you prefer.

The process of making this wasn’t too difficult. My only big issue was that I did not have a deep enough pan for all those balls!

Get your mind out of the gutter, readers. I’m talking about pans and food. Sigh.

I had to use two pans to make this, which I wasn’t happy about because I think the whole point of cooking the balls with the sauce is that it affects the taste of the actual sauce.

Despite this conundrum, things turned out well. Grandma and Great-Grandma would have a lot of nagging advice and suggestions I’m sure. More than anything, though, I think they’d be pleased that I’m full-filling the matriarchal balls legacy.


Meatballs, meat sauce, and pasta. It’s the Roman way.



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