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Winter is a time for comfort food. Food that evokes emotion and memories. Growing up in an Italian household, one of the things on the menu from time to time would be meatballs. Not spaghetti and meatballs per se, more like spaghetti then meatballs. We rarely, if ever, had the two together. The pasta would be dressed with the sauce the meatballs were braised in and the second course would be the meatballs with vegetables of some sort – even just a simple salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

It had been a while since I made meatballs at home and the recent cold weather was perfect for an apartment filled with aromas of meat simmering for hours in a nice tomato sauce. A friend popped around to help with the work, and more importantly – the eating!

The meatballs were fashioned simply out of very few ingredients. The “holy trinity” of meat – ground beef, pork, and veal – also had grated Pecorino Romano, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper mixed in. That’s it. No egg. No bread soaked in milk this time. Straightforward meat goodness.  We portioned them into balls slightly smaller than a tennis ball, rolling them just enough to form. No need to pack them too tightly otherwise they’ll end up tough.

BTW, mind the pictures. I took these with my new Blackberry instead of my regular camera as I wanted to test its quality.



The meatballs were seared in batches in my Le Creuset to form a nice crust and start developing a fond for the sauce. Once the searing was complete, finely chopped onions were softened and garlic and tomato paste were added and allowed to brown slightly. A cup or so of good red wine was next, scraping the bottom of the pot to get the fond incorporated into the liquid. Pureed tomatoes (I use the jars my Nonna cans every fall), bay leaf, herbes de Provence, a whole dried chile pepper, and more salt and pepper were added and brought to a simmer. The seared meatballs and any juices went back into the pot and the whole thing simmered on the stove for 3-4 hours. It smelled fantastic!

Searing meatballs

Searing meatballs

In an attempt to keep things somewhat healthy, greens in the form of a salad were required. Neither of us had eaten a proper Caesar with dressing from scratch in some time. My friend made an excellently balanced dressing from egg yolks, anchovy paste, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Just the right amount of tang and salty anchovy goodness. Not to mention there was double-smoked slab bacon and the croutons were fried in some of the leftover rendered fat.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

Instead of making spaghetti, we made open-faced meatballs sandwiches with provolone piccante (and a side of more meatballs). To be honest, as much as I love the sharpness of provolone piccante, it was overwhelming in this case. It would have been better to get something more “melty” like regular provolone or some mozzarella. Regardless, it was tasty as hell and well worth the time it took to make the meatballs.

Open-faced meatball sandwiches with provolone piccante

Open-faced meatball sandwiches with provolone piccante

A couple tasty wines were opened to go with the meatballs. The 2005 Paitin Barbaresco was very, very young, but it was just released at our local monopoly and I wanted to check on its quality before laying the rest of the bottles in the cellar. The second bottle of 2003 Illuminati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Zanna was also delicious. The first one was unfortunately corked. Darn!

  • 2005 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco Sori’ Paitin – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (1/9/2010)
    Tasted on opening and revisited after 3 hours in a decanter. Opaque ruby-black colour. Brooding nose of dark berry fruit, black cherries, spice, violets, and a hint of vanillan from the oak. Full-bodied, rich, with dark fruit replays from the nose. This wine shows great balance and structure with very fine-grained tannins that bring about a mouthpuckering albeit rich finish. This is a stellar wine and a steal at $40CAD. I think the drinking windows from Galloni and Suckling are a little early, and I won’t be opening any more bottles until 2015+. Well done! (93 pts.)
  • 2003 Azienda Agricola Dino Illuminati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva Zanna – Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (1/9/2010)
    Delicious Montepulciano that shows rich dark fruit – crushed blackberries, sliced black plums, black cherries, damp earth and herbs from the nose through to the moderate-length, 35+s finish. With an hour in a decanter, the wine became more expressive and is into its early drinking window. Drink now-2015. (91 pts.)
5 Comments leave one →
  1. liberinatavone permalink
    2010/01/27 4:20 PM

    Love what you wrote. It was the same at my house. Spaghetti then meatballs. I was so fed up with eating them. My mom used to tell my three sisters and I, you’ll see any husband of yours and your kids will request this supper and you’ll have to make the same food I make. She was so right. My son told me just this week after I made a lasagna, Mom, all I can say is, thank goodness I’m Italiam, cause I don’t know what I’d eat! BTW the pictures are fine and the meatballs look exactly as they should. Liberina

  2. futronic permalink*
    2010/02/22 7:46 PM

    Thanks for the comments Liberina! It’s funny how you may get sick of eating something as a kid but then when you grow up it’s those same things that you crave.

  3. Estimator permalink
    2010/03/14 4:22 PM

    Hi Fut,

    Nice Blog!

    I’m looking for a homemade tomato base sauce recipe for my pasta and meatballs. Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Les

  4. futronic permalink*
    2010/04/06 12:37 PM

    Hi Les,

    I don’t do anything special with my sauce. Follow the process I outlined above (sorry, I don’t measure), and I am sure you will end up with something tasty.


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