Meatballs

("Polpette" - "Purpetti")

 

Meatballs are made all over the world with no precise recipes, everyone has their own way to prepare, cook and serve them. The meat balls were born to make edible and to utilize tough meat from adult and working animals before agriculture was motorized.
Perhaps meat balls are the only dish where the main ingredient, the meat is important only in name and in fact the condiments blended with the chopped meat produce a tasty morsel with such a blend of taste that it is hard to describe.

                              Meat Balls
In Southern Italy, including Sicily the meat balls were made to make the most of the hard leftover bread and the chopped meat was used being the most inexpensive meat. The proportion between chopped meat and the amount of bread used in making the meat balls was related to the financial position and the wealth of the makers.


Stale bread is moistened with milk or water and to cover-up its taste, garlic, onions, other vegetables, nuts, fruits, spices and eggs are used and blended into the mixture. 
As a child, I loved the meatballs that my mother made, as an adult, I could appreciate better the blend of flavors, highlighted by the occasional raisins or pine nuts, the crunchiness on the outside, the velvet softness on the inside and the faint taste of garlic, the sweetness of the onions, the sharp savor of the cheese and the slightly peppery flavor of the parsley.  
La signora Danila, my mother-in-law, made fried meatballs using leftover boiled meat. She used 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs, coarsely diced, soaked in 1 cup of milk for every 2 lb. of meat with the addition of eggs, cheese, little garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
In some parts of Italy the meat is a mixture of pork and beef, in Sicily beef is normally used.
Spaghetti and meatballs is an American tradition, in my home we served fried meatballs as a supplement to a meager main course, or when on Sunday, we prepared the ragu’, the tomato sauce was enriched with polpette, meatballs, salsiccia, sausages, pittinicchi, boned pork spareribs,cotenna, pork skin, a boneless loin roast stuffed with garlic.
The ragu’ was a complete meal because the sauce was used as a condiment for the pasta and the meats were used as the entree.
Small meat balls can be served with a dipping sauce as an appetizer.

 

MAKES 24 TO 30 MEATBALLS

INGREDIENTS

 

  • 2 lb of chopped meat
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of your preferred grated cheese
  • 1 cup of milk
  • ½ small onion, minced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ½ cup tomato sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pinoli
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cup of canola or corn oil for frying
  • Oil to wet your hands

 

PREPARATION

The Meat Balls
In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs and milk and let it soak for a few minutes; add the ground beef with all the ingredients except for the oils. 
Mix it well, work and compact mixture with your hands into a mass. If it is too dry add some milk or if it results too soft add some bread crumbs.
Coat a baking pan with a few drops of oil.
Wet your hands with oil and roll the mixture into balls the size of a walnut, about 1½ inch in diameter. Place balls in the baking pan.
To make the meat balls uniform in size, use a 3 ounce ice cream scoop, shape the scooped mixture into a sphere and place in baking pan.

 

The Cooking 
Meat ball can be baked or fried.

 

To Bake 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, sprinkle ¼ of a cup of water in the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

To Fry
Place ½ cup of olive oil in a large skillet, over a medium heat; at about 350 degrees, or until it shimmers, fry the meatballs in a few batches and cook on both sides. When golden-brown (not dark brown), with a slotted spoon transfer to drain in a dish covered with paper towels.

                     Polpette

To Serve
Meat balls can be served hot, with salad or vegetables, or can be simmered for 15 minutes in tomato sauce, and reheated before serving. The sauce enhanced by the taste of the meatballs is a delightful companion to spaghetti or other types of pasta.

                      Spaghetti & Meatballs

Serve small size meatballs as appetizer, withsalsa verde, a dipping sauce, on the side.
Salsa verde is made with the inside of bread moistened in vinegar, mixed with boiled eggs, anchovies, cappers, olive oil, and lemon zest chopped together with an abundant quantity of fresh parsley and if needed salt and pepper to taste.