Meatball Making Inspired By An Italian Festival & Missing My Grandma
Ciao, it's Gadabout Gal Michele here. Recently I spent an afternoon at an Italian Heritage Festival. I love going to Italian festivals! It makes me think of growing up with my extended Italian family and celebrating our "familia"at the annual Tulino family reunion. There was something about the smell of the food, the loud and passionate conversations between my grandma and her siblings, cousins running all around, and the seriousness of the bocci ball tournaments that always made me feel so at home.
Unfortunately, as time marched on, the young kids grew and moved away and my grandmother and her siblings passed away. The reunions changed and aren't anything like what they used to be and they don't happen as often either. But I still have wonderful memories that definitely left a big impression on my life. And for that I am forever grateful.
One of those memories stems around my Grandma Rose. I loved Sundays because that meant we would go to my grandma's house either for tea and chocolate cake, or Italian biscuit cookies. Or sometimes it would be Sunday supper with pasta, homemade sauce and meatballs and Italian Balkan bread for dipping. That was my favorite day of the week! A sensory stimulation, everything from the incredible aromas to the mouth-watering flavors, that warmed my heart.
With grandma gone I really miss those Sunday supper afternoons. I was the fortunate grandchild in that I was given her bowl that she used to make her meatballs. I love to whip up meatballs. It's very relaxing for me. I turn on some music, pour a glass of Italian vino and savor my time as I mix and roll the ingredients into balls, all while I breathe in the incredible aromas of garlic, parmesan cheese and Italian seasonings. I find myself making meatballs when I miss her. Maybe there's something about using her bowl that causes me feel close to her and I enjoy those emotions very much.
I wanted to share this story with you because as I've said before a destination doesn't always have to be a physical place. It can also be about how you see things, or even how the feelings from a memory can take you somewhere. For me, making meatballs is a destination. Wonderful memories that flood not only my mind but my senses too - from the wonderful smell it creates in my cucina, to the touch of rolling the balls in my hands, to the incredible taste of eating what I made. It almost feels like I'm sitting at my grandma's table again and it is a beautiful, incredible feeling.
September 2019 the Gadabout Gals will be traveling to Italy and I'm excited beyond belief for so many reasons. One of those being that my Italian family, the birthplace of my great-grandma's parents, will be less than two hours from where I'll be staying. I have cousins here in the states who know them and when I get information I plan on reaching out because a visit to their hometown just outside of Naples is definitely on my list!
Before I close the travel diary entry I wanted to share some snapshots of the meatball making process from the special bowl, glass of wine and all the ingredients, as well as the recipe. My gift to you. If you decide to whip them up I hope it makes your kitchen smell as wonderful as mine and that you enjoy them as much as I do!
1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground meat, I use ground sirloin and ground turkey mix (sometimes I do .5 lbs. ground turkey and .5 lbs of ground Italian sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1. Combine the milk and breadcrumbs. Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, pour in the milk, and stir to combine. Set aside while preparing the rest of the meatball mixture. The breadcrumbs will absorb the milk and become soggy.
2. Whisk the egg, salt, pepper, Parmesan, garlic and parsley. Whisk the egg in a large bowl until broken up. Add the Parmesan, parsley, salt, and a generous quantity of black pepper, and whisk to combine.
3. Add the ground meat. Add the meat to the egg mixture. Use your hands to thoroughly mix the egg mixture into the ground meat.
4. Add the soaked breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly into the meat with your fingers. Try not to overwork the meat; pinch the meat between your fingers rather than kneading it.
5. Form the meat into meatballs. Pinch off a piece of the meat mixture and gently roll between your hands to form 1 1/2-inch meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). Continue shaping until all the meat is used.
Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes. (Watch closely if cooking meatballs made with lean meat.) The meatballs are done when cooked through and the outsides are browned, and when they register 165°F in the middle on an instant read thermometer. Place in sauce.
Tip: The secret to a tender meatballs is to not overwork the meat — mix the meat with the milk soaked breadcrumbs and other ingredients just until they're combined. I suggest using your hands to mix; since you can actually feel it you're less likely to overwork the meat.