The scent of a pot of bubbling tomato sauce with meatballs slowly simmering on the kitchen stove evoke childhood memories. Peering from beneath the small rectangle table in Nonna Maria’s kitchen, I could still hear the vivacious exchange of the best meatball recipe. What is the main ingredient? What is the secret ingredient? What is the correct size and shape? How are they best cooked?
Tradition dictates that “polpette di carne al sugo”, or meatballs in tomato sauce, be shared as the Sunday meal. The origin of these “little balls of goodness” goes back to ancient times. It was considered a poor man’s dish, a keynote dish of “cucina genuina”, traditional cuisine of homegrown ingredients, leftover meats, stale homemade bread, farm fresh eggs and aromatic herbs. Today’s ingredients consist of quality meat, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and eggs to bind. To give extra nutrition you can add some spinach, rapini, potatoes or some crushed tomatoes (as mom would do). These tender meatballs can be fried, baked or dropped directly into simmering tomato sauce which lend richness to the sauce while absorbing the flavours into the meal.
Rolling the mixture quickly between my palms, savouring the flavourful meat, and smelling the wonderful aroma still brings me comfort and warmth on a cold winter day. This simple traditional dish not only feeds my body, it brings comfort to my soul with memories of home and family.
Le Polpette di Carne della Nonna
250 g ground beef
250 g lean pork (or combination of chicken and pork)
50 g grated pecorino cheese (or combination of pecorino and parmigiano)
½ cup breadcrumbs
Handful of minced fresh parsley or marjoram
Place everything in a bowl.
Combine ingredients well with your hands. Pinch off mixture and roll them into small ball-sized pieces.
Bake or fry them first. Then drop them into simmering tomato sauce.
Remove from sauce and enjoy with crusty bread and a salad, or meatball sandwich. Or simply enjoy with pasta.