Italy. Home of the Vatican City, great works of art, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci. A country filled with history; a country whose people are known for their hospitality, for their wine and of course their food. And notably for a mealtime staple we all love – pasta.
I remember one time visiting Italy, the island of Capri to be exact. Just a small vacation but it made a lasting impression, for that is where I first tasted meatballs Italian style, a treat I continue to give myself every so often. This is my play on that iconic Italian dish.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1½ cups bread crumbs
¼ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon marjoram
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup of flour (dusting purposes)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions finely chopped
2 carrots chopped
3 sticks of celery chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
12 cups fresh chopped tomatoes
Start with the tomato sauce. I tend to make this in the morning of the planned meal. I use fresh tomatoes and want to ensure they reduce enough to reach the right consistency for the meatballs. Place the oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the chopped celery and carrots, cook for five minutes and then add the onions and garlic. Once the onions become clear, add the tomatoes and all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, allowing the ingredients to simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. After simmering for a couple of hours, blend the ingredients, using a blender, for a smooth consistency. Now let the sauce simmer another two hours, allowing the ingredients to come together as a hearty flavourful sauce.
In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, ricotta cheese, grated parmesan, eggs, salt, parsley, oregano, marjoram, black pepper, minced garlic and bread crumbs. Using your hands mix the ingredients together.
Now, wet your hands and picking up some of the meat mixture start to form meatballs (traditionally the size of a small lemon). Roll a meatball in your hands and then over the flour, giving it a good coating. Set each meatball on a baking sheet after it is coated.
Place a large frying pan on the stove on a high heat, pour in the olive oil, and then add the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on both sides and then arrange them in the sauce, turning each one over to coat. Cover the pot and simmer gently for at least one hour.
Serve on cooked pasta (your choice) with fresh crusty bread. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or parmesan.
Ian Leatt, advertising director at Pegasus Publications, was a trained chef in Jersey in the Channel Islands.