“Spaghetti and Meatballs” as we know the dish here in the US is truly a blend of old world Italian frugality and the American love for Italian food. Many people do not know that the history of the ‘Italian American’ meatball in that it is derived from recipes of the millions of immigrants that came through Ellis Island to the US from Naples and Southern Italy in the 1920s.
Italian cooking has always been about frugal eating and living. I was surprised to read that when those Italian immigrants first came over to the US and found plentiful meats at low prices, they decided to show off their new found ‘riches’ wealth and status by foregoing the frugal practice of adding bread to ground meat dishes which back in Italy had allowed them to ‘stretch’ the meal in order to feed a large family on a little budget.
But, these ‘all meat’ meatballs turn out to be dry, and pretty much tasteless and basically spherical hamburgers. That is why, Italian Americans returned to and are returning to the traditions of the pre-immigrant Italians of nearly 100 years ago and using the “stretchers” in their recipes which makes the ‘meatball’ flavorful, and melt in your mouth.
You will need a half pound package of ground pork mixed with the same amount of ground turkey or veal you can use all three or two, always using ground pork to mix with the other choice. If you don’t have in your pantry, you will need to buy or make dried bread crumbs (using day old bread), heavy cream, one whole onion, fresh garlic, fresh tomatoes or one large can of crushed tomatoes and of course fresh dried herbs.
Combine in a large bowl your half pound ground pork with either turkey or veal. Add to that, a pinch of sea salt, and as much dried herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint as you like and I prefer a lot. Then add in ¾ cup of dried bread crumbs and ¼ cup heavy cream. Mix by hand and form into med. Sized balls. In your covered skillet, melt in 4-5 tbs of olive oil, add chopped onion and garlic, stir and cook on med. Heat until edges have browned. Add your meatballs and cook on med heat, turning them over from time to time to brown on all sides. Once browned add your tomato sauce and cover, let simmer on low heat for 30 min.
Of course, you need to make the pasta. Boil water with a pinch of salt in a large stock pot. Add your spaghetti pasta and cook until tender. Drain and ladle onto a large low lipped serving dish. Pour your sauce and meatballs over the top and serve! Don’t forget to put out the grated Parmesan.
~Tutti a Tavola!