I try to hide it, but the truth is this: I’m kind of a techno-phobe. But recently, with the help of web consultant extraordinaire, Jenny Beaumont, I updated a few things on this blog — and made an interesting discovery. Do you know what the number one web search query is that leads people to this blog?
Not “France,” “Paris,” or even “Chinese food.” Meatballs.
I’ve only written about meatballs once, back in 2007 when this blog had barely cut teeth.
But, I do make meatballs all the time — I just don’t write about them. Meatballs are my husband’s favorite food. If I even think about meatballs, he starts grating Parmesan. I make them to celebrate his birthday, promotions at work, or simply life itself. Because life without meatballs is not a life worth living (according to him). I make them so often, it never even occurred to me to share the recipe.
Apparently, you know what I’m cooking better than I do.
Here, then, chers amis, is my recipe for meatballs. They take longer to prepare than your average weeknight meal — an hour and a half, or so — so I usually make them on Sunday nights. We eat half with spaghetti, and the other half the following night with polenta. Now you know all my secrets.
Spaghetti and meatballs
Inspired by Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich
For the sauce:
Two large cans of whole tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves and/or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Chunk of parmesan rind
For the meatballs:
1 lb ground chicken breast (but you can use turkey, beef, pork, or any combination of the three — the fattier the meat, the more tender the meatballs)
1 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
2 egg whites (or 1 egg, beaten — if you don’t have morbid fears of clogged arteries like me)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for frying the meatballs
In a large pot (I use Le Creuset), heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and wilt the onions. Crush the canned tomatoes by hand and add them to the pan along with their juice, the crushed red pepper, bay leaf, oregano and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered.
Meanwhile, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, egg whites, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands. Shape the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. You should have about 30 walnut-sized meatballs.
In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Place as many meatballs as will fit into the skillet (about half) and brown them on all sides. After they’ve finished browning, add them to the gently bubbling tomato sauce. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 30 minutes, or until they’re thoroughly cooked. Season the sauce to taste. Serve with spaghetti (toss the sauce thoroughly with the pasta), or polenta and broccoli with garlic and chili.