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Monday, February 15, 2010

Authentic Italian Meatballs in Sauce - Polpette al sugo

Hi fellow foodies!

Sorry it's been so long. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been having fun using my fake Italian learn authentic Italian recipes. My most recent endeavor was polpette al sugo or Italian meatballs in tomato sauce. You all will be seriously amazed at how easy this recipe is and how great the simple, yet flavorful ingredients taste together.

Typically, I'm the last person you'll catch craving meatballs and definitely the last one to make them, whether it's the American style, the Italian style, or that weird hybrid found on the average meatball sub. Wait, um...I just remembered that there is one exception. Sino-Khmer Krom (Chinese-Cambodian-Vietnamese) style meatballs are really good. Here's the recipe ( But yea, like I was saying, meatballs in the typical sense were so not my thing until I discovered this recipe.

NOTE: These are appetizer meatballs, not spaghetti and meatballs. Spaghetti sauce also has 1/2 -1whole glass white wine and 1 chopped onion and you use more tomato (500 grams--about 2-1/4 cups). For spaghetti sauce, follow this whole recipe with these changes. Mix Hunt's brand crushed tomato (their brand is more of a crush than a chop, as opposed to the overly-chunkiness of other brands, which renders less sauce) and their sauce.

What you'll need:
for the sauce:
1 small can tomato sauce (the short can)
2 - 14.5 once cans of crushed tomatoes (diced will work if that's all you have, but bear in mind that there is still some skin in there, unfortunately) (I highly recommend Hunt's brand for best results in taste and texture)
12 leaves minimum of FRESH basil (yes, the fresh is a must. Otherwise, you totally crock the flavor. It's all about the freshness of your ingredients for simple recipes like this one)
3 cloves garlic, smashed
extra virgin olive oil

For the meatballs
Just over 2lbs of ground meat (mixing the meats is tasty. I did mostly beef with maybe 1/4 of the amount in pork since that's what I had, but veal would be nice, too)

7/8 cup breadcrumbs (you can just do fresh ones with your own toasted bread if you like)

7/8 cup grated parmesan cheese (the bottle is fine)

3 eggs

1 clove pressed or finely minced garlic

a bunch of parsley, minced

a dash of nutmeg

Oil to fry in (if you opt to fry, not bake)

Here is the video in Italian that I watched and here's a website I used for comparison:

Mix the three eggs into the meat mixture
Add in fresh minced parsley and mix in
Add grated parmesan and incorporate into mixture
Add a pinch of nutmeg, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste and mix into mixture
Add breadcrumbs (fresh or store-bought) and incorporate well until mixture is smooth

Sprinkle a baking sheet, cutting board, or tray with breadcrumbs to avoid sticking. Form meatballs with a handful of meat mixture and place on tray. In this process, some people opt to rolls the balls in bread crumbs before frying (if they opt to fry). I fried the first go-round, but I will likely never fry them again. It's time consuming and wastes lots of oil, while adding tons of unnecessary fat. You can bake these in the oven on 400 degrees for 20 minutes (maybe 30, but I think 20 was perfect, if I am remembering correctly). This works especially well with a pan that allows fat to drip to the bottom pan.

Another option used by the text recipe in the link above is to just to add three tablespoons olive oil to a sautee pan over medium high heat and and once it's sizzling, add in the three cloves of garlic (smashed or sliced is fine) and give it maybe 10-20 seconds to cook, depending on how thin the garlic is. Then add in the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and when it's just about to boil, add in the meatballs. Move the pan (we're using a deep pan here, not a pot) around to get the meatballs covered and evenly cooking. Let them cook in the sauce for twenty minutes. Once there's five minute left, add in the basil (just throwing in the whole stem with leaves attached is perfectly fine here). DO NOT add basil before this point or you will cook the flavor out and have a bland sauce. Move the pan around a bit to get the basil flavor distributed. Cook for the last five minutes and enjoy!

If you've opted to fry, simply fry the meatballs and toward the last batch, get your 3TB of oil and three garlic cloves (sliced or smashed) and let the garlic cook as mentioned above. Add in your tomato sauce and tomatoes. Cover the pot and allow it to reach a rapid boil. Add basil leaves whole (attached to stem is fine). Stir in the basil and let it reach a rapid boil. Add in the meatballs once the basil flavor is incorporated. They don't all need to be covered in sauce. Let boil on high for 10 minutes. It's not necessary to cook it any longer than that. The sauce need not be thick. Enjoy!

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