after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Turkey Meatballs

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g says: Homemade meatballs are my thing. They are one of my favorites to make for friends, and I think I like eating them more than any other meat dish. Growing up (and still now) everyone in my parents’ house — especially dad– would hover around the kitchen as mom neared completion of her meatballs, for we all knew that we were in for a special treat to snack on. As soon as those balls hit the pot of tomato gravy and mom turned her back, they were up for grabs — and you needed to be ready to pounce, bread in hand to soak up your extra sauce, or else. I am still tickled by this ritual, and am glad that it has caught on in our home (t loves to be the meatball taste-tester).

I learned the age-old technique of mixing together foods that are potentially hazardous when raw, but taste like heaven when properly combined and cooked, from my mom (who, despite her protests, is indeed a great Italian cook). There is nothing more satisfying than being able to use my hands to mix together a multitude of textures in a bowl, sniff the mixture every now and then to make sure all ingredients are in proper ratio, and have results I can be proud of, every time. I am sure there are some secrets to great meatballs — some say a teaspoon of sugar, some swear by their brand of bread crumbs (I do) — but I think it’s all about the proportion in which the ingredients are combined to achieve the salty, cheesy, peppery, fresh  scent of a good meatball mix (can’t really say taste, as raw meats and eggs are involved, so it’s all up to the nose). And I have quite the schnoz, thanks to my dad and gran, two of the greatest smellers of our time, who have passed the talent on to me. You can ask t — my nose knows.

On Friday, we are planning to host a godfather party — friends will gather at our apartment to feast on spaghetti and meatballs, biscotti, maybe some cannoli, and watch The Godfather. It should make for a great time, and as the token Italian of our group of friends, I am of course in charge of preparing the meatballs. The only catch is, not all of our guests eat red meat. So, I decided to get creative with my traditional meatball recipe (which is an adaptation combining both mom’s and aunt beabea’s recipes). Today I tried using ground turkey in lieu of beef, and added some ricotta cheese for smoothness after tasting some veal ricotta meatballs at craftbar in nyc. The results were truly delectable, and I may have to add this recipe to my personal repertoire permanently.

I’ll turn it over to t, as he insists on formatting the recipes his way.

t says: Here’s the recipe.  It tastes better every time g makes it …


__ 3 lbs ground turkey (85% lean)
__ 1 egg
__ ~1 c Progresso brand “Italian Style” bread crumbs (but you may need more because it’s a texture thing)
__ 0.75 c grated cheese (Kraft brand Parmesan and Romano mix)
__ 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
__ 1 large yellow onion, diced
__ 0.5 c part-skim ricotta cheese (you could use whole milk as well)
__ a few tsp each of of salt, pepper, and olive oil


0)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1)  All of the following mixing must be done by hand (it’s easier and more fun than using utensils).  In a bowl, mix together turkey, onion, and egg.  Then add breadcrumbs and combine until mixture is workable and not too sticky.  Add parsley and grated cheese and mix.

2)  Smell the mixture to get an idea of how much salt and pepper to add (it’ll “smell” right).  Ballpark estimate: ~ 2 tsp each.  Add the salt and pepper and re-smell to check.  If this is your first time letting your nose guide your meatballs, smell the mixture, add only 1 tsp of each to start, and smell it again (to see the difference); there will be a chance to add more seasoning in step 3.  Add the ricotta and mix until smooth and homogeneous in appearance.

3)  Make a small test meatball (~1″ in diameter) and cook it fully in a frying pan with some olive oil.  Taste it to check seasoning and consistency.  Decide on whether it needs more salt, pepper, cheese, or breadcrumbs.  Smell the mixture before and after adding ingredients (start to build up a library of smells).  If adding salt, combine thoroughly because, depending on the size of the grains of salt, it might take a few minute to dissolve.  Re-test another sample meatball and tinker with your recipe until you are satisfied.  Make a mental note of what the mixture smelled like right before you cooked that perfect meatball.

4)  Line a baking pan that has a lip (to prevent spills) with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup).  Rub the pan with olive oil.  Roll meat mixture into balls (we prefer ~1″ for hors d’oeuvres, 2″ for pasta, 2.5+” for sandwiches) and place on pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until underside is moderately browned, and flip.  Bake for another 20+ minutes, until meatballs are cooked through (bigger meatballs will take longer).  This may require rolling them periodically to prevent burning the side contacting the pan.

5)  Remove from oven, and cool.  Put into sauce/gravy, and lightly simmer for at least a half hour so that the meat flavors will infuse into the liquid.  Serve with your favorite pasta shape.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 12:07am

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