When I am looking for something that will comfort me while I am cooking it, as well as while I’m eating it, my go-to choice is usually Italian food. I am not Italian, and I did not grow up eating much Italian food, but I have learned to cook a variety of cuisines, and Italian is my favorite for its rustic honesty, allowing simple ingredients to speak for themselves in a way that satisfies mouth, stomach, and soul.
This week’s pasta was spaghetti and meatballs in marinara sauce. It was a very busy week, with most of my time and energy going toward successfully coordinating my faith community’s Holiday Fair. Having a box of spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce in the pantry, and homemade Italian meatballs in the freezer made at least one meal quick and easy to prepare, and comforting to eat.
I live about as far away from my family as you can while remaining in the US. My immediate family – my mother, sisters, and their families – all live in California, as does some of my extended family. Some of my extended family live in Oregon. I am in New England. I miss my family during the holidays, because I have fond memories of our holiday gatherings, always full of laughter and great food.
There are those who are emotionally distanced from their immediate family, who choose a family from the people they develop deep friendships with. Then there are those, like me, who are close to their immediate family emotionally, but separated by geography, and need a loving, sheltering group of people in their life. My faith community is my second family, the family I have chosen. They provide me emotional sustenance and comfort, and gatherings with them are also full of laughter and great food.
I developed this recipe with a lot of experimenting. As is the way with comfort food, there are as many recipes for Italian meatballs as there are Italian grandmothers. I don’t have an Italian grandmother, but I like to think if I did, she’d approve of my meatballs. Making them takes time, but it’s time well spent if you freeze some of them. There’s a rhythm to the process as well, that is meditative and soothing, as long as you don’t try to make them in a hurry.
The holidays can be overly loud and busy. Try and find some quiet time, and make some meatballs. You’ll be glad you did.
Italian Meatballs (makes approx. 8 doz. 1 1/4 inch meatballs, perfect for freezing)
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
2 tablespoons no salt dried Italian herb blend, heaping
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, minced
½ cup milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground veal
2 cups vegetable oil, approx. (1/8 inch up the side of the pan)
1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the bread crumbs, Italian herb blend, salt, pepper, onion, and milk, and mix until well combined.
2. Crumble the three ground meats over the top of the egg mixture, and mix it all together lightly with your hands, until well combined. Be gentle, but thorough.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Gently roll 1 1/4 inch balls in the palms of your hands, and fry them in batches in the oil, turning to brown all around. Be patient; don’t crowd the pan, or your meatballs won’t brown. Drain on paper towels.
4. To serve, warm meatballs in a pot of simmering sauce. To freeze, allow to cool completely, then pack in plastic freezer bags and refrigerate until cold. Label and freeze.