Oh oh. I seem to have missed a holiday. It just came to my attention that March 9 was National Meatball Day. It’s not clear where this holiday started, but meatballs have had a history of cropping up — from the children’s book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to the camp song, On top of Spaghetti, to the meatball-doling grandma in The Wedding Singer.
Years ago, my Italian mother-in-law always served spaghetti and meatballs when we visited. This would include a special meatball that she would feed, by hand, to our all-black German shepherd, Mr. Schwartz. Like Mr. Schwartz, our spaniels Penelope and Leia, would welcome every day as Meatball Day.
We took Leia to the Festival of St. Anna in Hoboken and bought a meatball from one of the stands solely for her.
Her eyes bonged out of her head, like Wiley Coyote. If we hadn’t insisted on feeding it to her in small bites, she would have swallowed it whole – and soulfully looked at us for another meatball.
It doesn’t matter if the meatball is made with ground beef, pork or turkey, nor if it’s sautéed first or just dropped into the gravy to boil (often an Italian family debate), Penelope doesn’t care. She only cares that her bowl is empty.
Just in case National Meatball Day slipped by you as it did me, let me assure you that you can celebrate at any time. Here is the recipe from our Nonna (Italian for grandmother).
Nonna’s Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 sm. onion minced
2 med garlic cloves minced
1 29-oz can tomato puree & ½ can water
1 6-oz can tomato paste plus 4 cans water
1 tsp. basil
l tsp. oregano
l tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Saute minced onion & garlic in olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer ¾ hr. Add meat balls and bring to a boil again. Simmer 1 hour, stirring often.
l lb. 2 oz. chopped beef
5 slices or ends of stale bread
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp. Parmesan cheese
1 scant tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Shape into balls.
Your option: brown the meatballs first or just put them into the boiling sauce.
Then grab your friends – both two-legged and four-legged — and Mangia.