This is how to make real Italian meatballs based on a recipe from a real Italian grandmother. It wasn’t a simple task. There are no measuring cups or spoons utilized. There is no recipe filed away in a drawer. It’s all done from memory and how much something weighs in the palm of her hand. This recipe comes from the memory of a real Italian grandmother. A Brooklyn Italian grandmother–the best kind. She has been making these meatballs most of her life. It is second nature to her. She can quickly prepare this meal until I asked her if I could tag along and take pictures, write the ingredients and steps down in recipe format, measure in cups and spoons and then post the recipe here on Acorns On Glen. Not only is the finished product delicious (I ate seven), it also illustrates a way to wear rings and bracelets while making meatballs and not get them dirty. Go figure! We made the meatballs and sauce at the same time, so be prepared to jump back and forth between the meatball and sauce sections. If you follow our steps below, you will be fine….and also be named an honorary Brooklyn Italian grandmother for the day. See how we made them:
Ingredients for the Meatballs:
- 2 pounds of ground sirloin
- 1/4 cup of Italian parsley, chopped (Brooklyn Italian grandma alert–it has to be Italian parsley; no curly allowed)
- 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup of grated Pecorino cheese (we used a lightly smoked Pecorino cheese that we bought from a local cheese shop)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Sauce:
- 1 large or 2 regular hot Italian sausages, cut into 2 inch pieces (you can use sweet Italian sausage if you prefer. We bought our sausages from the local butcher)
- 1 35-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 35-ounce can of plum tomatoes in juice
- 1 can of tomato paste
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup of chopped onions
- 1 cup of torn basil leaves (you can add more if you would like, to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup of olive oil for the meat, plus 3 tablespoons for the sauce
Begin by mincing the garlic cloves for the meatballs. Garlic is a key ingredient and some people like it finely minced, while others like it a little more course. You decide according to your taste.
In a large bowl, add the ground sirloin and eggs. Crack eggs in a bowl one at a time to make sure they are good and don’t contain any shell and then add to the meat.
Add the chopped Italian parsley, bread crumbs, grated cheese, milk and salt and pepper to meat and egg mixture. Now get your hands in there and mix all ingredients until well combined. Don’t mix too much after ingredients are combined as you want lighter meatballs and too much mixing will make them too heavy. Less is best.
After the mixture is combined, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil from the sauce recipe in a large skillet. When it is heated, add the sausage pieces and brown them well. When the sausages are well browned, put them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
In the sausage flavored olive oil, let’s start cooking the meatballs. With your hands, take the meatball mixture and form a meatball into a size that fits in the palm of your hand. Have a bowl or glass of water nearby to dip your fingers into when you start to notice that the meat mixture is sticking to your fingers/palm.
Add the meatballs to the oil and cook until well browned. Remove them from the skillet and place them with the sausage on the plate lined with paper towels. Remember that they will continue to cook all the way through later in the process when they are added to the sauce.
Now let’s move to completing the sauce. Begin by mincing the 6 other cloves of garlic and chopping the onions.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. When heated, add the garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste gets very dark in color. At that time, add the two cans of crushed and plum tomatoes and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now add the sausage pieces and browned meatballs and simmer on the stove on medium to medium low heat for about an hour ensuring that the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
Prepare the pasta of your choice (we used 2 pounds of linguine).
Add the torn basil leaves to the sauce and let them cook down into the sauce. Ladle the sauce over the pasta and make sure to put lots of meatballs and sausage on top and enjoy. Grate more Pecorino over the top if you would like. How easy was that? Real Italian meatballs with gravy. Thanks to our Brooklyn Italian grandma. We will be bringing her back into the kitchen in the future. She makes more than meatballs and sauce. What Italian recipes would you like to see from our Brooklyn Italian grandma?