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Soccer, basketball, guitar, piano and the art of the meatball

January 8, 2010

My son has been incredible. He took second in the region for his soccer season and is now playing towards a state championship. In the meantime he is playing basketball and can’t get enough of the guitar and piano. He runs back and forth between the YouTube videos showing him how to play a Coldplay song and then to the piano to try it out. I love his passion! I told him it was his turn to pick what I should make for dinner. He was thrilled. Although he eats everything he tells me now and then “dad, can we just have normal food tonight”. I love it. His choice was fettuccine and meatballs! “Just normal tomato sauce and meatballs with not too much in them, ok?” “You got it Seby!” (Sebastian).What Seby doesn’t know is that although meatballs are “normal” and “simple” there is also a real art to a tender, flavorful meatball. I gently combined the ground turkey with Panko bread crumbs (keeps the meatballs moist) toasted oregano, finely chopped garlic, finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and some grated Parmesan. I used a fork to gently combine the ingredients. You do not want to warm up the meat or it gets gummy and then you end up with Italian superballs instead of fork tender juicy meatballs. I put the mixture back into the refrigerator to get cold again. After ten minutes I pulled it out and gently formed the meat into balls being careful not to pack it too much. Use just enough pressure to make the shape. In a wide, high sided pan I browned the meatballs over medium heat until deep brown all the way around. I took them out of the pan (they were 80% cooked) and then added some finely sliced onion and garlic. I let them sweat and get a little color. I then added canned, crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Bring to a boil, turn to a simmer, cover and cook ten minutes. Puree in a blender and add back to the pan. Add the meatballs and turn to low (don’t boil them or they will get tough). Cook for ten minutes. Meatballs out onto a plate, cooked pasta into the sauce for a two-minute boiling tomato sauce bath. This way the noodles soak up the sauce and become “one”.

That is the key to great pasta. Pull the al dente pasta out of the well salted water and directly into your sauce (don’t drain b/c the water has great pasta flavor!) Pasta onto the plate, meatballs on top, parsley on my plate (and for the picture) no parsley on Seby’s plate. Fork tender and juicy.  One bite and I taste the simple flavors of a meatball. The classic “American-Italian” flavor of garlic and oregano. The comforting, familiar, warm deep herb flavor. The garlic is present but only after a few bites as the flavor builds. The Parm blends brilliantly with the tomato sauce to create a richness as if I added cream. The pasta has body to it as you bite and the finish is a bright tomato flavor un-interrupted by anything else. Simple and tasty. The only thing better was the smile on my son’s face. Happy son, proud dad, kids back to school, life is good.

I hope your year has begun with something tasty and some quality family time. Make this be the year your dreams come true!

Eat well, Enjoy life, Be happy

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dee permalink
    January 13, 2010 6:56 pm

    I am wondering if you listed all meatball ingredients, and what ratio you are using for ground turkey to panko crumbs. Also any ballpark amounts would be appreciated. It is really hard to get tender meatballs and would like to try your method. My list of ingredients has always been longer. Thanks

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      January 16, 2010 7:12 pm

      Hello Dee, I know what you mean. It is tuff.
      I used about 1/4 C. panko per lb. of meat. You can also use 1 leek per lb. as well (dark green cut off) chopped small and cooked over low heat with olive oil until very tender. Let the leek cool and mix it in as well. The leeks don’t give off as much liquid as onions thus making the texture of the meatballs more tender. The real key is 1. Keep the meat and all ingredients cold. 2. Mix gently with a fork (your hands will warm up the mixture). 3. Put it back in the frige and let cool again before forming meatballs. 3. Form meatballs very gently, don’t “pack” them like a snowball. 4. If you are really determined have the meat ground for you to order and ask the butcher to grind it larger. A larger grind of meat will give you a more delicate texture. When it is finely ground it takes on more of a packed texture. Brown the meatballs and then add your sauce and cook covered over very low heat. I hope that helps! Warmly, Jeffrey 🙂

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