Throughout my entire life I have been a fan of good comedy, especially old time comedies. Laurel and Hardy, Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis on and on and on. But there is one particular scene I remember from the old Abbott and Costello tv show when Bud Abbott is trying to explain to Mr Baciagalupo why he could never get Lou to eat a meatball. Meanwhile Costello is just screaming “MEEATBALL!!! MEEEEATBALLL!!! Well, sorry fellas, but I love a good meatball, and my wife’s meatballs are second to none. But first a little background.
A meatball is just what it says it is, a ball of meat. Sure there are some ingredients. Of course a Swedish meatball is different from an Italian meatball, but basically they are cousins in that they are a ball of meat. An Italian meatball though has ingredients like garlic, salt and the like and it is known the world over as the standard by which all other meatballs are judged.
Originally an good meatball was made of beef and pork and sometimes a little veal. Beef is the main ingredient, but because most Italians of long ago were poor, pork was added to stretch the beef, which was always more expensive. The veal was added on holidays and just gave it the feel of something special. Over the years though, pork was mostly eliminated, and the meatball morphed into beef. So, here is the recipe for, not the meatball. Not just any meatball. But my wife’s meatballs which really are the best ever. (No, she is not standing behind me)
1 lb ground beef (chuck is best) ¾ beef and ¼ pork is optional
Minced garlic (garlic powder is a good substitute)
8 slices sliced white bread, crusts removed
Grated parmesan cheese
Pepper, but just a touch
2 large eggs
Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl except for the bread and bread crumbs. Wet the bread with cold water and squeeze all the water out like you would a sponge. Add that to the mix and, using your hands mix everything together until it is blended and the pieces of bread disappear. Now, this mixture will be kind of loose, so add the breadcrumbs, maybe ¼ cup and mix again. Keep adding more bread crumbs until the mixture dries a little and doesn’t stick to your hands. You may need a cup more or less. When you are satisfied with the mixture, it’s probably done. Put it aside for a while.
In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil about ¼ inch. Get it nice and hot. Take a small amount of the meatball mix and roll it into a ball. Make each ball the size you would eat, not too big, not too small. Drop it into the oil and let it brown on all sides. Your meatball is now fit for any discretionary human’s consumption.
See, one of the secrets of a good meatball is the ingredients. But the other is in the frying. Take the time to do that and you will see that it is well worth the effort. Some people bake their meatballs which is OK and some just drop them into their gravy. The former method is OK I guess while the latter is totally unacceptable. A slow cooker meatball will send you directly to hell! A good meatball is crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. Crispy enough to crack when you bite into it while the inside just kind of fills your cheeks with flavor. I do prefer mine out of the gravy but I’ll never turn away one that is soaked in a good Sunday gravy.
Now, I do have to say that I know quite a few people who don’t fry their meatballs and let me be clear on this point. If you take this hunk of seasoned meat and just drop it into your gravy pot you are doing both a disservice. Take the extra time and fry the meatballs. You will see it is worth the trouble. Also, spaghetti and meatballs is a classic dish, good any night of the week, but a meatball, a GOOD meatball can stand alone and be a staple, a main dish on its own. So be proud and serve your meatballs with distinction.
I guess down deep inside I know there is no meatball on the planet that Lou Costello would eat. He would swear to that and so would Mr Baciagalupo. But if you follow this recipe, and I know but it really is a little of this and a little of that, you will love your meatball. Your family will ask for seconds. And it will make you wonder, what was Lou Costello thinking about?! He’ll never know what he missed.
Anne Marie, please pass the meatballs honey.