Friday, January 30, 2009

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

Aside from being one of my kids' favorite books, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi and Ron Barrett (1978) has also inspired the love of all things meatball in my family.

Let's just take a minute to discuss the spaghetti and/or meatball experience from my youth. Our spaghetti never included meatballs. Generally we had a sort of ragu type sauce with browned ground beef and some seasonings stirred together with Prego brand spaghetti sauce (Ragu brand was too watery, if I remember correctly). As a child, I wasn't a big lover of spaghetti sauce, preferring my noodles plain. In time, however, I managed to ladle a bit of the sauce onto my noodles. It was not my favorite meal in the world.

Strange, I know. Especially after seeing how ravenously my own children devour this staple meal. Who knows why...maybe I was just picky or maybe my mom ate too much of it while I was merely a bun in the oven (she has confessed this was her main craving with me!).

Meatballs, on the other hand, were a family favorite. They never came in the Italian variety, though. We made barbecue meatballs--meatballs covered in BBQ sauce and baked, served over egg noodles most of the time. I used to make up a bunch of these and stick them in the freezer when we were newlyweds.

But after a time, our tastes changed and the BBQ meatballs were abandoned for newer recipes. A few years passed with no meatball-making at all.

Then the kids discovered spaghetti, downing bowl after bowl until it was their tried-and-true favorite meal. It even became their ritual meal for Grandparent's night (yes, I do know how lucky I am to have my parents close by and willing to take the kids one night every week). Unsure of how to make these Italian style meatballs, I resorted to the frozen ones in the Trader Joe's freezer section. We liked the "Italian" style, but usually opted for the "Turkey" balls instead.

Finally, we began to search for meatball recipes, changing and adapting along the way. We now have our favorite recipe worked out. I foresee another 800,000 meatballs in my future on this earth. And as long as they don't start falling from the sky, I'm okay with that.

Italian Meatballs

1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (beef is fine, but a combo of chuck beef, pork, or veal is the best)
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c bread crumbs (I don't make these myself...yet)
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley (or curly parsley)
1/2 medium onion, grated (about 1/4 c)
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large egg, beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c olive oil, divided

In a large bowl, combine the meat, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, onion, salt, garlic, and egg. Be gentle and don't overmix. Try not to mash the meat too much. Season with pepper.

Gently form the meat into golf-ball sized meatballs. Don't pack too tightly or they will be tough. Refrigerate for at least an hour (or don't---they still turn out fine and I never do this step!).

Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick (or cast iron!) skillet over MH heat. Add half of the meatballs (about 9). Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides (about 6 minutes). Transfer meatballs to a plate. Drain the oil, wipe out skillet, return to the heat and repeat with remaining oil and meatballs.

Drain oil again and wipe out. Return the meatballs to the skillet and add your favorite marinara sauce. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, swirling occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through--about 15 minutes.

Serve over spaghetti noodles or in a sandwich. If serving with spaghetti noodles, toss the noodles with 1/3 of the sauce, then top with remaining sauce and meatballs (and more cheese!). They can be frozen for up to 2 months.


Joie de vivre said...

I remember the librarian reading this to my class when I was teaching, but I don't remember much of the book. I'll have to check it out again, I think my kiddos would like it.

Anonymous said...

How funny! We read this and thought it was so funny as kids. Great memory...and great recipe!

Jessica said...

I just found your blog through Food Buzz. Interesting post--I like how you gradually worked your way through yours and your family's history with meatballs. Now I'm definitely inspired to try your recipe!

chewymama said...

i hated meatballs or meatloaf or anything that even sounded like it was related to either one of them! (i was forced to eat them and gagged my way through) but my kids LOVE them! Making your own breadcrumbs is super fast and easy (and healthier) if you have a magic bullet? i just throw some fresh bread in there and voila!

chewymama said...

p.s. that was your old roomie Rachel ;)

julie jams said...

How funny! I hated meatloaf too-it was one of those "bad experience" foods that I could never get over. The aunt that I didn't like forced me to eat it and I threw up. What's a magic bullet? I'll have to look it up.

Denise Clarke said...

What a HOOT ... great blog!


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