28 November, 2017
My Most Favorite Italian Meatballs
Does the Julie Andrews song “My Favorite Things” ever go running through your head? No? Well, maybe it’s just me. Some of the lyrics to that song make no sense to me:
“Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things”
Yet, in my crazy way of thinking, my own favorite things come to mind when I’m listening to this song.
“Puppy dog kisses and a few special wishes
Friends stopping by with a bottle of wine
The clean-up fairy that does all the dishes
Homegrown vegetables that a garden brings
These are a few of MY favorite things”
Oh yes, and these Italian meatballs!
Years ago I bought this cookbook “The Food of Italy” and it’s been like my bible of Italian recipes. The authors of the book traveled Italy to find these special recipes straight from their Italian roots. The photos in the book are beautiful, capturing the charm of Italy with the exquisite cuisine. My cookbook has surprisingly survived many years of “cooking abuse” – it has handwritten notes on recipes, stickies hanging out, and even a few splotches of food dried on some pages.
When I tried the meatballs featured in this cookbook, I have to admit, they went straight to the top of my favorites.
One of the unique ingredients in this meatball recipe is the pine nuts.
When we were visiting Italy this Fall, we saw the pine trees that grow these pine nuts. The pinecones are filled with these “seeds” that when picked out, are the pods of the pine nuts. I cracked one open with my fingernails, but according to the locals, they are hard to open. Well, never let the obstacle of food come between me and a hard shell.
Onions and pine nuts sauteed in olive oil.
The mixture is made, let’s make meatballs! The “Food of Italy” cookbook in the background with some of my handwritten notes on it.
Meatballs made, let the cooking begin!I’m not very patient. Are they done yet?
Are they done yet?
These may not be the most beautiful meatballs, but they are the tastiest in my opinion. And since it’s my blog, my opinion counts… at least here. 😉
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup pine nuts, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 1/2 oz parsley chopped
- 1/8 oz basil chopped (I use pesto when I don't have fresh basil)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds ground
- 2/3 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 parmesan cheese
- grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 egg
- 1 lb 2 oz ground pork or meat (I use 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 ground pork)
- Heat frypan and add a few drizzles of olive oil. Put onions and pine nuts in pan and cook until onion is soft and pine nuts or light golden color.
- Add garlic, cook about a minute then remove from pan and set aside to cool.
- In a bowl put herbs, fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, egg, and ground meat.
- Add cooled onion and pine nuts, season with salt and pepper and mix until all ingredients are combined.
- Test mixture for correct seasoning by frying one small meatball and assessing flavor. Correct seasoning if needed.
- Rest mixture in fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Meatball size is a personal preference. I tend to make them smaller than most. Roll meat into balls anywhere between a golf ball and a walnut size.
- Heat additional olive oil in a large pan and fry the meatballs until browned on both sides.
- Cook in batches to prevent pan overcrowding. Add oil as necessary.
- A simple tomato sauce to serve with these meatballs is adding two 14 oz cans of tomatoes and a 1/2 cup of red wine to a saucepan and simmering for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue to simmer. Add the meatballs, cover, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. It's challenging for me not to add more ingredients to the sauce (garlic, basil, etc.) but I have to say this simple sauce let's the meatball flavor shine.
Another meatball recipe I often make is from Pasquale Sciarappa – I like it because of Pasquale – he is hysterical to watch in his homemade videos. His meatballs are not my “favorite” but a good recipe nonetheless.