Italian Meatball Recipe and the results of a meat taste test

by Lael Hazan on September 27, 2010

The phone rang while I was away at a conference recently. It was Giuliano. “Lael,” he said, “why is there a box of beef at our door”?  Oops…

Social media is a great thing!  Through twitter I had met the director of Rocky Mountain Organic Meat, our tweeting each other had led to a phone call where I learned about his mail-order-only grass-fed beef.  Rocky Mountain Organics is based near the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming and the company works with the “tribes” to make sure that their cows are certified organic.  A certified organic cow is one that has been raised on land that remains in its natural state.  In addition, the cattle are tracked from birth to consumption and there is a long list of what the cattle may not eat.  Upon learning that this meat is VERY lean, I was a bit skeptical.   I like marbling on my meat; I wasn’t sure how I was going to like meat this lean.  Rod generously offered to send me some.   Hence the phone call from my husband.

We were sent “one of each”.  There was some ground meat, some tenderloin, a flank steak and a NY strip.  There were even samples of jerky.  I had grandiose ideas of a feast, but Giuliano looked at me bemusedly and told me that each cut would just about feed our family of four.

The arrival of the meat coincided with a family gathering.  My in laws, Victor and Marcella Hazan were coming over to celebrate Michela’s 7th birthday and Labor Day.  We had asked Michela what she wanted to eat in celebration and she had said, “broccoflower pasta and meat”.   We were happy to oblige.  Giuliano grilled the flank steak and made a tagliata out of the NY strip.

Marcella Hazan choses her meat carefullyThe verdict was positive.  The meat had a rich flavor and a firm texture that spoke of the place where it was raised: much like a wine, its terroir.  Victor was reminded of a neighbor he had who was from Argentina.  Apparently the neighbor had always complained that American meat was too tender, and that a good steak in Argentina, considered the capital of flavorful beef, was something you could sink your teeth into. Victor was confident his neighbor would have enjoyed this meat.  Marcella who is soon to be 87 proclaimed that one needed “50 year old teeth” to chew this meat.  Indeed, it didn’t just melt away, it had texture and flavor.

A few nights later, Giuliano made meatballs out of the ground meat. Meatballs in Italy are not served “on top of spaghetti”, but as their own dish.  In our house, we serve them with rice. Creating meatballs is a great family activity, so our children joined in which also helped to vary the size.  They were very flavorful and we all gave them a thumbs up.

In addition to providing the meat for our tasting table, Rocky Mountain Organic Meat generously offered to sponsor our first giveaway.   This contest ran from September 27- October 12, 2010 when we had  our daughter, Michela, pull out a name.  The winner  received a 10-pound box of beef from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats.  Please read until after the recipe, the post has been updated to announce the winner and gives her views on the meat.

Meatballs with Tomatoes and Peas

@Giuliano Hazan

These tender, delicate meatballs are comfort food at its best.  This recipe, with minor variations, has passed from generation to generation in my family.  I learned it from my mother, who learned it from her mother, and it is a favorite of our children, who already make it with us.  The meatballs are particularly delicious with White Rice.

Preparation time:  35 minutes

Total time from start to finish:  one hour

Serves 4 (makes about 20 meatballs)

1 slice plain white bread

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion

1 pound ground beef chuck

1 large egg

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1 1/4 pounds fresh peas in the pod or 7 ounces frozen peas

1. Cut away the crust from the slice of bread and put the bread and milk in a small bowl.

2.  Peel and finely chop the onion.  Mash the bread and milk to a pulp with your fingers and put it in a large bowl with the ground meat, onion, egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper and thoroughly mix everything together with your hands.  Form the mixture into small compact meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

3.  Put the breadcrumbs in a small shallow bowl and roll each meatball in it until coated on all sides.

4.  Put the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan that will accommodate all the meatballs snugly and place over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot carefully slide in about half of the meatballs using a large spoon.  Lightly brown them on all sides and set aside.  Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

5.  Pour off most of the oil from the pan leaving just enough to coat the bottom.  Return the pan to medium heat and add the tomatoes, breaking them into small pieces with the spoon.  Lightly season the tomatoes with salt then return all of the meatballs to the pan.  Adjust the heat so that the tomatoes simmer and cover the pan with the lid slightly askew.  Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the meatballs once, after about 5 minutes.

6. If using fresh peas shell them.  Add the peas and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes if using frozen peas, or 20-25 minutes if using fresh peas, until they are tender.  Serve hot with good crusty bread or rice.

Note: These meatballs can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.  If reheating over the stove, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent them from drying out.

*** YEAH We have a winner!  Allison Silver of Sarasota won our FIRST ever giveaway!   Thank you to Grassfed organics for making this possible.

Allison Silver of Sarasota won our first ever giveaway.
Here is what she said about the meat:
We had our steak taste test dinner at our friend’s Jared and Cassandra Winters. We prepared all the steaks the same way. We had two from Rocky Mountain and the others were Niman Ranch Ribeye. All got Montreal Steak Spice and a pat of butter when done for Steak au Beurre- our favorite. All were grilled Rare/Medium-Rare.  Sides were roasted fingerlings, cauliflower, squash and greek Salad, all courtesy of the Winters. The Delicato squash was a revelation by the way, and I can’t wait to make some tonight.  Also, we had extremely strong vodka martinis, which added to the excitement.  Prior to eating we all hypothesized that the Niman Ranch steaks might be better since they seemed thicker and looked to have a little more marbling. As well, we had been pre-warned by the article to expect the meat to be a little different that what we were used to.
Rocky Mountain Meat vs. Niman Ranch
photo by Allison Silver
After blind and then uncovered taste tests for all of us, we individually all came up with the same conclusion- THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN STEAK ROCKED!

They really were better. More flavorful, and with a more pleasing texture- delicate, not too tough and the taste was not gamey at all, very pleasing “meaty” taste, with the Niman Ranch being more bland.

We were all surprised:
a) that we felt that way
b) that we were all so certain of it and had each come to the same conclusion.

We will be placing an order I think.  Also, the Beef Jerky and Beef Sticks were a big hit both with our girls as well as the Winters, to whom we gifted a package.
So there you have it.
Allison

taste testing meat: photo by Dr. Allison Silver Schwartz


OFFICIAL RULES:

This is where we get to put in all of those lovely legal disclaimers.  Our intent with this give-a-way is pure enjoyment.  Rocky Mountain Meats is responsible for the shipping and product and we assume no liability.  We thank them as they are also sponsoring this give-a-way by a donation of the product.  We aren’t lawyers and we think it is sad that we need to put in disclaimers; however, it is our intent to conform with all U.S. rules and to only offer the possibility of the product to people who will personally enjoy it.  Basically, if something “bad” happens, we are sorry but don’t hold us libel, we enjoyed the product and are trying to give you an opportunity to do so too!  If you are out to “get” us, please stop and think of what kind of world you are creating.

No purchase necessary to enter or win. The selected winner will be notified by e-mail. Entrants can enter 2 times per e-mail address per day. Give-a-way is open only to legal residents of the 50 states of the U.S. (and the District of Columbia), and who are 18 years of age at time of entry. Educated Palate and Hazan Enterprises assumes no responsibility for late or misdirected entries due to SPAM, technological, or e-mail filtering issues or for lost prizes. The use of any system, robot, agent, or software to automatically submit entries in connection with this Giveaway is prohibited.  Educated Palate’s decisions concerning all matters related to this sweepstakes are final. Odds of winning depend upon the number of entries received. Hazan Enterprises employees and their immediate family members are not eligible to win.  No cash substitutions, transfer, or assignment of prizes allowed. Winner must claim prize within 2 weeks after notification or the prize will be forfeited. Prize can only go to a physical address, no PO Boxes.  Winner grants to Educated Palate the right to use his/her name and biographical information in advertising and promotion without compensation or permission.  We would appreciate a photo of you and your “meat” with which we could update our post.  Rocky Mountain Organic Meats will pay for shipping and postage. Any tax, is the sole responsibility of the winner. Winner releases Educated Palate, Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, and Hazan Enterprises from any liability arising out of participation in this Giveaway or the acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize. Void where prohibited by law.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Pamela Marasco April 12, 2011 at 9:02 am

Looking at the picture of your meatballs cooking in the pan reminded me of the advice given by mia nonna when she first taught me the art and science of the Italian meatball. Never crowd your meatballs. Brown in a good olive oil and leave a space between your meatballs when browning and don’t touch them until you see the oil turn a beautiful, burnished golden color. I think you can probably apply that to life as well. Don’t crowd and clutter and take on more than you can comfortably manage. Surround yourself with simple things that promote your well-being. Don’t manipulate too much and in the end turn a beautiful, burnished gold.

Lael Hazan October 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Thank you everyone who participated!

Shelley Simson October 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I would love to try this. It sounds wonderful!

Laura Orenstein October 12, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Another yummy looking recipe! Thought I would throw my name in the hat!

jgk October 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I wanna win!

Gary October 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

“Spaghetti and Meatballs” is an American dish — like Chile con Carne, and Corned Beef and Cabbage. It would be as American as apple pie, if apple pie was American (it’s English).

As for the contest, count me in!

Everson October 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

I just woke up and I’m craving beef /to have it at my door would b a relief /I’d cook up some meatballs/ I’d cook up some steak/anything but organic ain’t nothing but fake/I’ll eat it with some friends/cause that’s where happiness begins/just send me some meat/ so I can hurry up and eat

Everson October 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

I am a huge believer n organic grass fed meat. So much so that if I can’t afford it, well I won’t buy meat. Coming out of college and being on a modest budget deff makes it rare moments that purchase the quality of meat I so strongly desire.///I heart organic grass fed meat

Allison Silver October 12, 2010 at 10:16 am

New favorite show on the Food Network is Meat and Potatoes. Only problem is that you start craving steak at 9:30 pm.

Allison Silver October 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

I Love Beef! Thank you for running this contest.

NeCole Scott October 12, 2010 at 9:31 am

I’d love to try the organic beef!

Tess Schaufler October 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

And you should make enough so you can have meatball sandwiches the next day with a wonderfully nutty provolone on crusty bread.

Tess Schaufler October 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

Wonderful recipe.You can never go wrong with honest, fresh ingredients and a classic recipe.

Warren Bobrow October 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

I think the essential ingredient for tiny (1 inch around) meatballs is the lemon thyme that I grow between the roses in my garden. The fragrance of the thyme, mixing with the sweet, spiciness of the cooking beef, pork, lamb is perfect, strewn over a plate of freshly made pasta sheets, with brown butter and Tuscan Olive Oil.

Lael Hazan October 12, 2010 at 9:09 am

Thank you for all of your WONDERFUL comments! This is fun. The recipe is one of our family favorites and I hope everyone enjoys it.

afoodobsession October 12, 2010 at 9:01 am

love meatballs in any shape, size, culture…of course, Neopolitan meatballs are the ones most near to my heart…soft soaked bread, eggs, fresh parsley, lots of pecorino, some garlic, olive oil, ground chuck, and when it’s a special day, raisin and pignoli….fried in olive oil..eaten as is, or added to simmering San Marzanos…served with the macaroni, or served as a course on their own…

Brigette October 11, 2010 at 2:04 am

And there it is! My photo. It was not showing up while I was typing my comment. =)

Brigette October 11, 2010 at 2:02 am

Congratulations on your first contest giveaway! It is a great prize.

I have been curious about the taste and texture of grass-fed beef, so reading your post is motivation to give it a whirl. I’ve read that grass-fed beef needs to be cooked for a shorter time than marbled beef, due to the leanness. Did you find that with this recipe?

Thank you so much for sharing your special family traditions. Your wonderful stories make preparing your recipes more fun and inspirational.

Sincerely, Brigette

P.S. I’ve been trying to add my photo to include with my comment, but I cannot figure Gravatar[?] out. I can get my photo uploaded into Gravatar, but I cannot seem to get back to this comment with the photo. :-/

Gardens of Plenty October 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

What a cool giveaway! Thank you for offering this. Just saying “10-pound box of beef” is kind of fun. :)

Kerrie Knox October 10, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Also glad to be introduced to your blog via @grassfedorganics retweet about the giveaway;)

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