I hear the sound of my mother spraying starch on my father’s shirt. I can see hot steam bellowing from the iron, then dissolving into the cotton. In the background, “Days of Our Lives” is playing on the television. The picture comes and goes. The antenna needs to be set just right. I can smell tomato gravy simmering on the stove. I love that smell because I know that she will make a special meatball just for me. She will fry it, then instead of placing it into the gravy; she will give it to me. All at once I feel nourished, loved, and cherished. When I look at her, I see the most beautiful woman in the world. I am four. My mother is thirty.
We all have those precious memories of that magnificent dish our mother’s made to perfection. For me, that exceptional dish is my mother’s Italian meatballs. Throughout my life I have tasted meatballs in many different restaurants. The scenario is always the same. I order, cross my fingers, and hope that this time they will be good. They never are.
This Mother’s Day, I went to my all-time favorite Italian trattoria. This place serves gourmet food, inspired by an amazing chef. I have had many dishes there, and I have loved each and every one of them….But on that fateful Sunday I did the unthinkable...Against my better judgment, I sampled their meatballs. (sigh) The flavor was painfully bland and the consistency was strange…almost rubbery. They were not good. They were really, really not good. I am always amazed when this happens. I have dined in countless, phenomenal Italian restaurants, featuring brilliantly talented chefs, and still I have yet to find a delicious meatball. This truly defies logic and reason.
Attention chefs! Great Italian meatballs must always include both ground chuck and ground pork.
There are still many menu items that I will continue to enjoy at my favorite eateries, but when it comes to Italian meatballs…I guess I will just have to roll up my sleeves and put on my apron. -- Or call my mom.
Patricia’s Italian Meatballs
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 pound of ground pork
2 cups Italian-flavored bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup parsley
1 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped very fine
1 onion, minced very fine
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Let stand 1/2 hour. Using an ice cream scooper, shape into medium-size meatballs. Fry gently in olive oil until lightly browned, or place on lightly greased foil on a cookie sheet and bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.
Gently place in your own hot spaghetti sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1 hour.