And You Thought Meat Was Key To Great Meatballs

Posted: September 11, 1996

Yo, Chefs!

I love Italian food. My favorite is spaghetti and meatballs. My problem is, my meatballs are just OK, nothing to write home about.

Can you supply me with a recipe for great homemade meatballs?

Thanks.

Jen Dembrowski

Philadelphia

Dear Jen,

We asked Fortunato Minniti, chef and co-owner of Bella Mia Ristorante (at 9th and Catharine streets) for the secret to his light, tasty meatballs. He shared his mother Philamena's recipe, which she brought here from her native Naples.

Contrary to what you might expect, good meatballs aren't made with a high proportion of meat.

In this recipe, ground beef is the binder, with other ingredients like freshly grated Locatelli Romano cheese, bread crumbs and eggs providing lightness and flavor.

MEATBALLS BELLA MIA 2 pounds freshly ground beef (not too lean)

1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup grated Locatelli Romano cheese

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3 cups bread crumbs

6 eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 quart homemade marinara sauce

Mix together all the ingredients except the oil and sauce in a large bowl, using your hands and combining thoroughly.

Chill the mixture, then form into meatballs. (The recipe makes about 20.)

Heat the oil, brown the meatballs and remove them from the pan.

Heat the sauce to boiling. Add the meatballs to the sauce, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

If you have anything you'd like to ask a local chef - the recipe for a favorite restaurant dish, the secret technique for getting a tricky sauce to turn out right, hints on how to rid your kitchen of food odors - send it to us, and we'll track down an answer. The address:

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Philadelphia Daily News

Box 7788

Philadelphia, Pa. 19101

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