Last week, in the most unlikely of places, I dreamt of meatballs. Given that I was in Florida, you’d think my thoughts would’ve wandered to something more appropriate. Sangria, perhaps.
But no. Surrounded by sand and shells and sunshine, all I wanted was winter comfort food. All I wanted was meatballs.
The small island where we were staying has an Italian restaurant. But at dinner that night I turned them down, opting instead to make them from scratch at vacation’s end. Too many meatballs are dry, oversized spheres, like baseballs in disguise. I didn’t want to risk disappointment, especially not when the craving was so strong.
So yesterday, our first full day back in Denver, my oldest kiddo and I got to work. I made the red sauce; she, full of creative energy from watching episodes of The Next Food Network Star, tackled the meatballs. Elated to be working on her own, she measured and mixed and shaped, happily exclaiming at one point, “Mommy, this is the first time you’ve let me work with raw meat!” Having just celebrated her eighth birthday, she saw this as a badge of honor, a promotion to the next level of responsibility in the kitchen.
Next she browned them in batches in olive oil (another first), then covered them in red sauce to simmer until they were fork-tender and delicious. How good were they? So good that hours later, when my five-year-old was snuggled in bed telling me about the best part of his day, he said it was eating his sister’s meatballs. Next time, we’ll double the recipe.
Makes 12-16, depending on size
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 cups red sauce, preferably homemade
In a large bowl, mix the first eight ingredients (beef through egg) and shape them into small balls. In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add half the meatballs. Cook about 15 minutes, turning gently until brown on all sides. Remove to a plate, heat remaining oil if necessary, then continue with the second batch. Remove and wipe down the pan. Gently transfer all meatballs back to the pan and cover with 4 cups of red sauce. Cover and let simmer 45-60 minutes, adding more sauce if the pan looks dry. Serve with whole-wheat noodles, red sauce and plenty of parmesan.