Italian-American cuisine is steeped in different traditions, giving rise to differences from the food we dine on when in Italy.
Mrs. Tolaro's Spaghetti and Meatballs
Michael says that Mrs. Tolaro always made a huge batch for the family. I made a half recipe and it is plenty for 6 people. Here is that half recipe:
For the Meatballs1 1/4 pound ground beef (I used lean, grass fed beef)
1 small onion (or half a large), diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
a large handful of breadcrumbs
A large handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg
For the Sauce2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
fresh oregano leaves, from 3 sprigs
fresh basil leaves, about 12
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano (or a combination)
Mix the meat, onion, bell pepper, breadcrumbs, cheese, and egg in a large bowl; knead the mixture until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Don't worry if some of the onion or green pepper falls out - it will get used!
Divide the mixture into 10-12 meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot on the stove. When very hot, add a little oil and tilt the pan to distribute the oil over the bottom. Fry the meatballs on all sides till nice and brown. When you add the meatballs, add any onion or pepper that was in the bowl.
While the meatballs are browning, run the San Marzano tomatoes and all their juices through the medium disk of a food mill (or you could use two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes - but Mrs. Tolaro used whole tomatoes and the food mill).
When the meatballs are nicely browned, add the puréed tomatoes and the tomato paste to the pot covering the meatballs. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add it to the pot. Stir gently to combine, being careful not to break up the meatballs. Add the fresh oregano and basil, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring from time to time. The longer the better.
Cook the pasta in well-salted water (remember, pasta is one of the starches that gets its flavor from being cooking with the salt in the water). Drain the pasta and mix with a little of the red sauce. Divide among 6 pasta plates, and top with some more sauce and a couple of meatballs per serving. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Serves 6 (with 2 meatballs apiece. Note: we were piggy and had three each!)
|Maria (Mary) Tolaro with her husband and six children.|