Thursday, January 20, 2011


I grew up in a neighbourhood populated with Etzio's, Vittoria's and Giovanni's. The telltale signs of August were open garage doors not displaying cars but a family production line making their perfect jarred tomato sauce. Visiting my friends houses was such a treat as snacks were not peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but fresh bread, cured meats, cheese and pickled vegetables. I remember contemplating to myself as I joined in their afternoon feast or snack "Who are these people? And why can't we all eat like them?". I love Italian food. It is my favourite food in the whole entire world (no offense anyone). They excel in so many arenas- they have pasta, risotto, polenta, amazing fish, meat and poultry dishes, insane cheeses, delicious breads, PIZZA and such a variety of veggie dishes. Maybe growing up in a neighbourhood where we were the only non-Italian family within a 3 mile radius is responsible for my bias but I just love love love Italian food!

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today and want to make meatballs. I remember going over my childhood friend's house and watching her mother remove giant meatballs from what looked like a cauldron. I thought they were having a dinner party but it was just the 6 of us. She tossed the sauce with the pasta, added the meatballs, generously grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese and served it with homemade chili in oil. Mama mia! I was in heaven.

1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef ( you can use a  combination of veal, pork and beef but I use veal and beef)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parm cheese
2 eggs
4 cloves garlic finely minced
1 small onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients together. Using your hands make sure everything is well incorporated. Form small, medium or large balls.  Place on tray lined with parchment (you can do this a couple hours earlier and refrigerator or cook immediately.. Add to sauce and cook for 45 minutes on a low simmer.

Sauce Ingredients
2 cans whole tomatoes
1 carrot, grated
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 parmigiano reggiano rind (save you parm rinds!)
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and sweat until onions and garlic are soft (about 5-8 min). Add parm rind and one can of whole tomatoes. Add the juice of the second can (we want to save the tomato pieces for later).  Add salt, pepper and sugar.  Cook on a low simmer for one hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Remove parm rind and thyme. Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Return to saucepan. Using your hands squeeze the reserved tomatoes so it breaks into small chunks. Cook on a low simmer for 30 minutes. Add more salt and sugar if necessary.
* Tip- add more sugar if it tastes to acidic. Add more salt if it tastes too dull.

I served my meatballs with polenta because I like the smooth creamy texture but my husband "hates polenta" so I made him rigatoni:)

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