Thursday, February 12, 2009
I had two good reasons to make meatballs: 1.) Byron is trying to learn more about cooking right now and this seemed like a fun lesson 2.)I have 6 pounds of ground veal in my freezer. It's not like I'm stockpiling veal or anything, it's that I have a new co-worker who brings me odds-n-ends from her husband's business and this time it just happened to be 6 pounds of ground veal. Good polpette are usually made with a mixture of meats--beef, pork and veal. They usually appear as a second course, but in the US this has morphed into the familiar combination of pasta with meatballs and sauce. You must have a light hand with polpette--mine are nothing like the beauties turned out by my grandparents and aunts and uncles. They aren't even as good as my mothers, nowhere near. But maybe in a few years, especially if I made them more often. Maybe I should start stockpiling veal...We used 2 pounds each of beef, veal and pork, making 6 pounds of ground meats total. I figured this way we'd all have leftovers to freeze or whatever. You can divide it all in half for more reasonable amopunts. I mixed 1 cup of bread crumbs with 1 cup milk and let it soak for about 15 minutes. They got a little too pasty because they were the really fine breadcrumbs from DeKalb Farmer's Market. It's better if you make it with your own fresh breadcrumbs but I guess I was lazy. After the bread crumbs are soaked, add them to your ground meat along with 1/2 cup minced parsley, 6 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 beaten eggs.I ended up doing my mixing right on the counter--it's easier just to use your hands and I didn't have a big enough bowl for my doubled recipe anyway. Do yourself a solid though and try to roll your sleeves up before you start mixing...Byron added lots of ground pepper as I mixed...Michelle was on cheese duty. Use about 1/2 - 3/4 cup grated parmesan (or half pecorino and half parmesan would be good too). After you have integrated all your ingredients, get as many willing hands as you can and gently shape your polpette into small ovals. It's about a handful worth of meat mixture. I'm not sure if Melanie grabbed any of the raw meat but I know Jeremy did...doctors aren't squeamish.Brown them in batches in a neutral, inexpensive oil (veg or canola is fine) for about 5 minutes per batch. They do not need to be done all the way through because they will finish up in the sauce.Sauce? What sauce? I make a basic tomato sauce while all this is going on. Mine is pretty basic, so feel free to substitute your own favorite technique here. I usually just mince one small onion and sauté in olive oil until golden, add 2 cloves minced garlic, sauté another 1 minute, then add in a 28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, mash up the tomatoes and let it all simmer for at least 10 minutes. If I have tomato paste on hand, which I believe I did this time, I add 1 tablespoon to the onion/garlic mixture and stir it around for 1 minute before adding the rest of the tomatoes. If I have fresh basil, I always put that in, or a drizzle of the red wine in my glass. Anyway. You add the polpette to your red sauce and let them simmer in there for about 15 minutes. As they are finishing in sauce, boil your pasta (any wide, long pasta is good here), then drain and toss with a little of the sauce. Top with your finished polpette and enjoy.As a bonus picture--here's my mother's version which she made when I was at home last week. Hers are far superior, smooth and wonderful. You'll have to come over sometime and try them.