Florence, Italy: Mamma's Meatballs & Homemade Sauce Recipe
Use Vine Ripened Tomatoes & Red Wine for Great Sauce!
Fresh Basil is a MUST
Who Doesn't Like a Nice, Juicy Meatball?
I cannot think of any self-respecting carnivore that doesn't enjoy a good meatball dinner now and then. Add homemade tomato sauce and you have a match made in heaven.
My recipe is easy, delicious and 100% made from scratch. Here in Italy, Italians usually eat meatballs with rice or polenta, but here in Tuscany, it is a main dish usually eaten with a side of vegetables (like spinach). Spaghetti and Meatballs is another one of those "American Inventions" (like Alfredo sauce or Chicken Florentine).
With that said, however, the following recipe is perfect for your Spaghetti...in fact, that is what I will be serving with my meatballs today (fresh pasta that I bought from my favorite pasta maker), and washed down with a good Chianti.
HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE:
1 large onion- chopped
3 big cloves of garlic- chopped
6-8 ripe tomatoes- chopped
2 bullion cubes (beef or vegetable is fine)
handful of fresh basil leaves- chopped
1 t sugar
generous splash of red wine (about 1/2 cup)
pepper to taste (also salt, if needed)
1. In a big pot, sauté onions and garlic in a generous amount of olive oil. Crush bullion cubes (or dissolve them with a bit of hot water) and add them to the pot. When onions are soft, add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes begin to "liquify."
2. Lower heat and add basil, sugar, wine, pepper and salt. Continue to simmer on low heat. At this point, start your meatballs.
MEATBALLS: this my version of my butcher's recipe, which he got from his mother (the Italian Mamma!!!). To see what else Mamma does, please see the added 'note' at the end.
500-600 grams (a little over a pound) of ground meat. I like to use 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork since it makes the meatballs tender and savory
1 large bread roll (preferably a day old) finely crumbled and moistened with some milk (note: do not use the commercialized "soft" rolls like hamburger buns since those are full of chemicals. Go to the bakery and get real bread- the kind that doesn't last for months on a supermarket shelf in a plastic bag).
1 egg- beaten with a bit of milk
2 T grated Parmesean cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix all ingredients until well blended and GENTLY roll into balls. Do not pack the meat tightly or the meatballs will be hard, not soft.
2. Add raw meatballs to sauce carefully one by one and cover the pot.
3. Let simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked and tender. Turn off the heat and let them sit covered for about 20 minutes before serving.
NOTE: In the Mamma's original recipe, you can add a bit of ground mortadella to the meat to add more flavor (this can be found in any good deli). Also, you can roll the raw meatballs in dry breadcrumbs and lightly fry them in olive oil to brown them before adding them to the sauce. Doing this will prevent them from crumbling and will give them a nice color. Buon apetito and thank you for reading!
C. De Melo