My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Throwdown Winner: Maroni's Meatballs (100-Year-Old Recipe)

"Nothing spoils lunch quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti."
~Jim Davis

This post was ready a few days ago, but I didn't publish it.  My heart wasn't in it.  I needed to know my son was okay.  And though I had a feeling he would be...even knowing he might be dealing with stuff...anxiety, physical discomfort, etc.  I just couldn't think of anything else.  But all is well;  I can breathe again...and the first thing I did was head to the kitchen, which, next to my family and friends, is where I find my greatest joy.  Never is cooking a chore.  And if I was ever stranded somewhere, hungry, nothing around anywhere to eat....this is a meal I'd start dreaming about.

Meatballs with sauce is one of those things that I've never used a recipe for...until now.  I've made it so much that I could just throw it together.  I can remember my mother making big pots of sauce that would simmer all day and I would steal spoonfuls to test it.  Always with meatballs and often with Italian sausage, too.  Never with a recipe, either.  All afternoon I would be dying for dinnertime to arrive.

Last year, I caught the episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown where he challenged Mike Maroni of Long Island's Maroni Cuisine to see who made the best meatball.  Much attention was paid, since this is one of my all-time-favorite meals and I love a good meatball.  A couple of things surprised me.  Noting that Maroni used 3 times as much egg as I ever did, the next time I made meatballs, I tried it, though skeptical.  Wouldn't you know it made them better?   That would be a permanent change; thank you, Mr. Maroni!  Since I loved them to begin with, you could say any improvement was just gravy....Sunday gravy.

Well, this past Christmas, Keith gave me the cookbook Bobby Flay's Throwdown! with all the recipes from the show.  Yesterday when I went to make meatballs and sauce, as I do about once a month, I pulled out the cookbook and followed the recipe for kicks, just to see.  Best meatballs EVER!  Something I didn't catch when I watched the show was that they also used about 3 times as much cheese and garlic as I've ever put in my meatballs.  They were so good, we ate 5 before they even hit the sauce.  By the time they were all shaped, I realized I had forgotten to put onion in them, but they were so good, I may just leave it out intentionally next time.

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

1 pound ground beef chuck (I used 1 1/2 lbs)
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley ( I used 2 T. dried parsley)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 small Spanish onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 large cloves)
pinch of salt, or to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Mix the beef, cheese, bread, milk, eggs, herbs, onion, garlic and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. Roll the meatballs loosely about the size of a golf ball, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake until browned, 35-40 minutes.
Sauce is a funny thing.  Everyone usually has their own family recipe and ideas of what great sauce should be.
Here is mine and by the's always better the second day:

Red Sauce (AKA Sunday Gravy)

1/4 cup olive oil
7 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup hot water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and stir constantly, one minute (you don't want it to turn brown, it will get bitter).   Add can of whole tomatoes and immediately reach in and squash the whole tomatoes with your hand, smashing them as much as you can.  Add the rest of the ingredients except fresh basil.  Simmer on low for 3-4 hours.  
One hour before serving, add the meatballs and fresh basil.  Serve over hot fresh pasta and provide grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.
Cook's note:  use the hot water to rinse out the tomato cans, getting every last drop into the sauce.


Margie said...

You're right, spaghetti & meatballs are a comfort classic. They look so good swimming in your sauce. So glad to hear all is well with your son!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

Thanks Margie, What a difference a day makes!

KDoucette said...

I can't wait to try new meatball recipe, Marg!! I do have my mom's recipe, which adds allspice for flavor, nice addition but I do like idea of more cheese, garlic and eggs, yum!! I can't wait to try! Thanks for sharing!! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Think it is time to saycongratulation to you wonderful blog- because everyday I look around here- and wish to understand enough english to cook after your recipes!
all looks so great- think after some minutes to stay here I have 1 kilo more weight at my hip-smile


Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

@Elborgi: Oh, thank you so much! I'm so glad you like them!

NoWay said...

I am so confused when it comes to using bread crumbs especially fresh!!! Can PLEASE help! Can you give me any more instructions on how to get/make or buy fresh bread crumbs ? Sorry if this is obvious to others and I am sure if I look on the internet there will be way to many answers, I rather just go to you who seems to have the best experience in this area

NoWay said...

Thank you soooo much for sharing the Sauce is Muah !eccellente !

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for a wonderful spaghetti @ meatball recipe to improve on the one I already have. Hands down this is the best one ever. I especially like not standing over a frying pan to brown the meatballs. EXCELLENT!!!!