Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Meatball Mania



I'm going to take you on a journey.  It's a meatball journey. Just imagine you're in New York in a dive pizzeria, where the owners speak fluent Italian.  The wife, who does the cooking, is shouting at someone in the back in Italian and is very angry.  The husband is happy and joking up front with customers.  The food is good.  The sauce is authentic.  The location is probably a little sketchy, and you might not want to be there at dark.  But the meatball heros...you have to get those heros.  You know they're good.  You crave them.  You can't get enough of them.  And the cheese...oh, that Italian woman uses the best cheeses and isn't stingy with it.  You'd probably stand in line in the rain for those meatball heros. You'd probably even risk going in there while the mafia is in there just to get that sandwich fix.  That's true dedication, my friend.  

Okay, so I'm not Italian.  But I made this awesome Meatball Parmesan the other night.  You know, like Chicken Parmesan, but with meatballs instead of chicken.  I originally planned on serving it over pasta, but my daughter and husband insisted on serving it in hoagies, which luckily I had some ready to go.  My husband buttered the insides of the bread and added garlic.  He topped the hoagies with cheese and more butter and garlic and heated them in the oven.  But the star here is the Meatball Parmesan.  Sure, the bread was really good, but it wouldn't be spectacular without those meatballs.  Tender, juicy meatballs with homemade marinara sauce and cheese...lots and lots of cheese.  Are you hungry yet?

MEATBALL PARMESAN
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 1/2 lb ground pork
1 small onion, chopped
2 T fresh Italian parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
Light drizzle of olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 C Italian breadcrumbs

FOR BAKING:
3 C marinara sauce (click for my recipe)
2 C shredded Mozzarella
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

NOTES:  I got 38 1/2-inch meatballs for this recipe.  I tried to cook them all at once, and I found that the pan was too overcrowded and I broke a few of the meatballs.  I would suggest frying in two batches or two pans.  The meatballs are soft, so be very careful when frying them and turning them over.  Be generous with the salt in the meatballs.  I didn't add quite enough, and I wished that I added a little more.  Also, I highly recommend making your own marinara sauce.  The link to my recipe is above.  It really takes just a small amount of chopping and minimal effort after that.  You will really be surprised at how much better homemade sauce is.  Plus, my recipe makes a lot and it freezes really well in smaller portions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the meatball ingredients together by hand, adding the extra 1/4 C breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet.  Shape the meatballs into about 1/2-inch balls.  Put the meatballs in a skillet and brown them over medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side (turn them carefully so you don't break them). Don't worry if they aren't cooked through.  They're going in the oven.  Drain them on a paper towel, if necessary.  

Pour 2 C marinara into whatever dish you're going to bake it in.  I used a cast iron skillet.  Add the meatballs in a single layer.  Spoon the remaining sauce over the meatballs.  Put the pan in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle the 2 C Mozzarella and the 1/2 C Parmesan all over the meatballs.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes to melt and slightly brown the cheese. Serve with pasta or on hoagie rolls as a sandwich.

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