An Italian Post for the Birthday Girl

Unfortunately we're unable this year to whip up a birthday dinner for our Mother, but we're pretty certain she'd prefer an Italian supper over anything else. Happy Birthday, Mother!!

This meatball recipe seems too simple to deliver the goods but just try it and be wowed. Like so many Sardinian dishes, the finished product is far greater than the sum of its ingredients, each element alchemically blending in a case of perfect kitchen kismet. That said, here's an instance when the old truism should be respected - use the best possible ground beef and canned tomatoes you can afford when assembling meatballs and sauce. Keep things traditional by serving with mashed potatoes as they would on Sardinia. In the unlikely event of leftovers, layer meatballs and sauce on sliced Italian bread, sprinkle with grated Parmesan or mozzarella and broil until the bread is crisp and the cheese melted. Or, double the recipe, freeze leftover meat and sauce and enjoy with spaghetti for a last-minute supper of the future.

Let's start with the meatballs. Combine in a large bowl and then mix thoroughly with clean hands: 1 lb. ground beef, 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, 2 eggs, 5 T. grated pecorino cheese, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 t. ground coriander, some chopped parsley (if you have it) and salt and pepper to taste. Salt wisely but not stingily. Form the mixture into balls 1" in diameter. Set aside.

Make the sauce by adding 3 T. olive oil to a large, deep skillet and heating over a medium flame. Saute 1 large onion (chopped finely) and 1 diced red or orange bell pepper until the vegetables are quite soft, about 7 minutes. Add in 2 cups chopped canned San Marzano tomatoes along with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup dry red wine and 1-2 dried red chilies (whole or crumbled). Mix well and add the meatballs to the mixture. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a gentle simmer and cover skillet. Cook for about 30 minutes, remove meatballs and gently boil sauce until it has thickened a bit. Season sauce with salt and black pepper. Serve hot or warm, sauce ladled over or around meatballs.


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