Meatballs come in all shapes and sizes. Some go in a sub, some over spaghetti, some in a slider bun, some on the end of a toothpick. No matter how they appear, they’re always delicious and fun to eat. I’m very fortunate to be marrying into Nick’s Italian family. One of the big perks of his family is access to his grandmother’s recipes! And no one does meatballs better than an Italian grandmother. On a recent trip to Cleveland to visit with the new family, Nick’s brother Peter made his grandmother’s meatballs for me. This recipe serves as a reminder that the best food is always made with love.
First you start by slicing the crusts off the bread (great scraps for making homemade croutons) and chopping fresh parsley.
Then the fun part: soaking the bread in wine. I recommend that you soak the bread with red wine (any kind will do) as it adds an amazingly rich flavor. If pink-soaked-bread freaks you out, you could substitute beef stock or even water. Make sure you don’t over-wine. Think of the soaked bread as a damp sponge, not one dripping wet.
Mash up and mix the soaked bread with your fingers in a big bowl until all mixed together. Then add the ground chuck, parsley, cheese, garlic powder, and eggs. Mix together again with your fingers until well incorporated. Dampen your hands with water and start rolling mixture into balls. We made a dozen per pound of meat, resulting in 36 meatballs total. You can make them any size you like. Peter then finished them by topping each with a fresh basil leaf.
Since Peter was already making Sunday gravy (red sauce), he simply covered the raw meatballs with hot red sauce and baked them until cooked through. The result was heaven. Completely moist and bursting with flavor, I was amazed at how Grandma Gerome’s meatballs transformed everyday ground chuck. If you don’t have red sauce ready to go, you could simply fry them in a pan coated with oil (or lard as the original recipe calls for) or bake them plain.
3 pounds ground chuck
3/4 loaf Italian bread, sliced, crust removed, soaked in wine or beef stock or water (or combination of)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 1/4 cups pecorino romano cheese
1 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
optional: red sauce for baking in sauce or lard (oil) for frying
optional: 36 fresh basil leaves
1.If baking: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Mash red wine-soaked bread with your hands in a large bowl until well combined. Add all other ingredients and mix together with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated.
3.Wet your hands with water and shape into balls. Top each with a fresh basil leaf.
4.If baking: Spray a baking pan with Pam and place meatballs on, with at least one inch between each. Cover with homemade red sauce or leave naked. Bake for 40 minutes. If frying: coat the bottom of a frying pan with lard or olive oil. Fry over medium heat until well browned and cooked through.
Yield: 36 meatballs.