Meatball Mania With Sauce

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. 

  Jewelry optional!

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.

 Insert fingers to the top of your rings.

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.

See a piece of parsley on the finger right above the ring, but nothing on the ring?

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.

Wearing a ring while chopping onions will not make you cry during the chopping process (not true)!

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). 

 Notice that the ring is clean and not caked with meat or sauce.  Excellent execution!

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?

Friday Dance Party

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party….country style with a twist.  First off, give yourself credit because we’ve made it through another week.  Give thanks for this accomplishment and all the great things that happened to you this week (think of health, family, friends to name a few) and when you’re done giving thanks…let’s dance.  We are switching gears this week and moving into a country line dance.  Think Dolly, Reba, Shania with a twist.  This week’s country line dancing is not only for fun but it is also for charity.  From now through April 8, GE wants to create the largest internet line dance in history and they need your help.  GE wants you and your family and friends to learn a line dance and submit a video of your team doing it.  Visit www.youtube.com/ecomagination for the details.  The site has everything you need to know, including the song download and line dance lessons.  If you decide to take GE up on their offer, every video sent of you and your family and friends doing the official line dance will mean that GE will donate safe, clean drinking water to various developing nations that don’t have access to adequate sources of water.  There is also great prizes to win as well.  Talk about keeping it real.  I hope this crazy video makes you laugh like it did for me (sorry for the little Google ad pop up.  If you see it, just hit the boxed “x” to close it).  See other great video episodes by going to www.youtube.com and typing Ian Is Bored in the search engine.  They are laugh-out-loud funny.  So whether you choose to participate or even if you don’t, let’s still watch the video and, as always, just shake it to the music.  You’ve “Walked The Line” (sorry, Mr. Cash) this week and made it through.  You deserve it.  Will you be submitting a video for charity or just shakin’ it in private? 

Seed Catalogs Galore

This is where the seeds for my 2011 garden will come from this year.  These are the finalists out of many.  I have read most of the ones that were sent to me and the ones above offer what I feel I am looking for the most in seeds that I will buy and use to grow food for us to eat.  It is amazing that so many seed catalogs exist.  As a new gardener here on Glen Road, I have to say that a lot of trees go into the production of all the seed catalogs that are sent out over the fall and winter months.  Here’s hoping that most gardeners are also fans of recycling!  When I say I am a new gardener, I really mean that I’m a gardener who took a very long break.  My first gardening stint ended years ago when I left home to go to college and started back up when I moved to Connecticut and finally built a raised bed garden in 2010.  So not so much a new gardener, but more of a gardener that took a very long break from 18 years old to 47 years old. 

My parents and my grandmother were very big gardeners.  My parents moved from a small farm town with a big garden into a bigger city, but they still have a nice size garden that they tend to even to this day.  So, needless to say, I got into gardening from a very early age and being in the garden is one of my earliest memories.  I remember being very young and digging up horseradish and grinding it with my grandma on the picnic table in the backyard.  I remember joining the 4-H organization for gardening and winning a blue ribbon at the fair.  I also remember crying when my father ordered my brother and I out on a Saturday morning to weed the garden.

Trivia Challenge:  Do you remember what the 4 H’s stand for in the 4-H emblem? 

Garden seeds were also one of my earliest entrepreneurial endeavors.  Back in Iowa, 10-year-old kids like me at the time could request a box of seeds from the Burpee Seed Company and then work to sell them to friends, family and neighbors.  In those days, the seeds weren’t sold for much and my profit margin was slim.  At the end of the spring selling season, you put your unsold seeds and your proceeds for seed packages sold  (less your profit) into an envelope and sent it back to Burpee.  I remember the box showing up at the post office and my heart pounding.  Inside were the usual seed suspects,: beans, cucumbers, lettuce, zinnias, spinach, to name a few.  I would then harass any adult I ran into to buy seeds.  I harassed adults to buy seeds that didn’t even have a garden.  Some people were forthright and said “NO, GO HOME NOW BEFORE I CALL YOUR MOTHER!” and others were very kind and bought four or five packets.  Knowing how bad I wanted to have a little money, I mainly remember my parents and grandma buying most of the leftovers and planting them in their own gardens.  I’m still waiting for Burpee to contact me and give me my “Seed Salesman of the Year” award.   

In looking for seeds for the 2011 garden, I made a very short list of what I was looking for in the companies I would use to buy seeds for the new growing season.  Here is that initial list (in bold type) lifted from a little journal I keep.  The journal is not like any diary of secret thoughts and loves lost, but more a journal of things I write down to remember later when I have the time to research and investigate.  My memory is sometimes a little cloudy these days!  Here is what I wrote:

  1. Seed companies I use should tell me that they have adopted the “Safe Seed Pledge”.  I have read a lot about genetically modified seeds.  I personally do not feel that a seed produced outside of normal reproductive methods is one that I want to plant, grow and eventually eat.  I can’t find any proof that they are good for us.  I can’t find any proof that they are bad for us.  So until I find out one way or the other, I don’t want them in my garden.  The “Safe Seed Pledge” tells me that the seed company is one that does not knowingly buy or sell genetically modified seeds. 
  2. Seed companies I use should offer a large selection of organic seeds and be able to provide a copy of their organic product verification form.  I most closely associate the term organic to be one that symbolizes that no chemicals were used in the raising and harvesting of the seeds I am using.  Chemicals are not good for the environment and not good for me.  I am sure there is much more to the term organic, but I always think about the non-use of chemicals.  I don’t want seeds that aren’t organic because I don’t want the chemicals inside of me or in the environment that I live in here in Connecticut.
  3. Seed companies I use should give me detailed explanations on how to sow the seeds and what I should do and expect during their growing season.  I am a perfectionist, which is not something I am particularly proud of in my life, but is something that I need to confess and accept.  I want my garden to look great and produce to the best of its ability.  I think that the plants are my babies and I want to do what is right for them.  I could spend hours doing research on the internet, but who has the time.  I want a company that spells it out for me in a concise manner.  God forbid that I should do something wrong!

So you have seen the finalists in the picture above.  Now it is time to announce the winner for seed catalog to use the most for Glen Road’s 2011 garden.  The winner is…..

Johnny’s Selected Seeds!  You can find them at www.johnnyseeds.com.  Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a privately held, employee-owned seed producer and merchant headquartered in Winslow, Maine.  The company was established in 1973 by Founder and Chairman Rob Johnston, Jr.  Johnny’s mission is helping families, friends and communities to feed one another by providing superior seeds, tools, information and service.  Their products include vegetable seeds, medicinal and culinary herb seeds, flower seeds, cover crops, farm seed and pasture mixes, fruit plants and seeds, and high quality, problem-solving tools and supplies. They carry sizes ranging from small to large to suit the needs of home gardeners and small growers as well as retailers and wholesalers.  Johnny’s Selected Seeds also meets my three criteria in a big way.  They adhere to the “Safe Seed Pledge”.  They offer a wide variety of organic seed and have the proper certificates.  The also give great “how to” information for this perfectionist.  I have placed the bulk of my order with them and will share my goodies with you when they arrive. 

Here’s hoping for a great 2011 garden here in Connecticut.  I hope you will be with me every step of the way.  I’m looking at the raised bed garden I built right now through the window and it is still covered in snow.  Can anything grow there this spring and summer?  Let’s hope so.  It all starts with the right seeds.  Do you have any seed or gardening advice that you want to share with the “new again” gardener here on Acorns On Glen?

JoJo’s Journal

This is JoJo’s  Journal….BARK!  I’m back and what a difference a week makes.  I spent most of the day on Saturday at the beauty parlor.  My salon is a very exclusive one called Bone Jour.  When I go there, my stylist takes me into the shop and bathes me, cuts my hair and then dries me very well.  She also cleans my eyes, ears and trims my paw nails.  Then I get to play with the other doggies that are there for the day in the playroom.  I know I’m spoiled, but please don’t tell anyone.  When I get home, everyone on Glen Road tells me how cute I look and then I have to take a nap.  All the excitement just wears me out!  When in doubt about grooming your dog (or any animal), a great website to visit is http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/grooming-library.aspx.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website is a great resource to use when you have questions about the care of your pets.  Now take a look at my before and after shots.

This is before:

This is after (don’t I like like a puppy again):

Side view.  This is before:

This is after (don’t I look like I’ve lost weight?):

Do you think I look pretty?  Let me know what you think in the comments section.  As well, tell me about your pets.  I would love to know about your little ones and make some new friends.  Do you have any pet grooming tips you can share or can you tell me what you would like to read about in my upcoming posts?

  Love, JoJo  xxxooo