My Dad has always talked about his mother, my Grandmom Mary's meatball stew. A savory dish of meatballs, potatoes, carrots and peas. I had never had it, it was just legend in the house. As my grandmother got older, she focused on her staples, like manicotti, lentil soup or truffle frittata. I was actually planning on visiting her this memorial day weekend to get a tutorial so that I could make this dish for my dad. Unfortunately, we lost my Grandmother last week. She was 93, almost 94, and she was independent till the end. It seems strange to say it was a shock to lose her, as she was 93. She had lead a great life filled with friends, family and adventure, but it was still, a shock. My grandmother had a force about her that made you think she would live forever.
This week we have spent a lot of time going through my grandmothers things, she didn't have recipe books as all her recipes were in her head. The only thing we do have is notes from my dad and my aunt that they took when they would call her for her recipes. No two are the same, which I think my grandma did on purpose because nobody, and I mean nobody made what my grandma made like my grandma made it. And that, was by design.
At my Grandmothers service, I read a remembrance for her that I had written, this one section rings so true to me and really awakened, for me, a realization about why I love and am so passionate about what I cook.
"As for most Italian-American families, food serves not only to nourish the body, but also the soul. Gathering around the table is a meal and often a family history lesson, Grandmom took great pride in her dishes, and spoke of them as cultural legacies, traditions that were passed to her from her mother, Annunziata or Grandmom Sistilia, Zia Maria, cousins and more. I don’t think she ever talked about cooking without saying, “this is how we do it, this is how our people do it.” She was proud of her people, her family and her own legacy"
Food is a family tree. Not only can we prepare it and remind ourselves of our great history, our ancestors and their journey, but it can connect generations and new people. It allows us to share some of ourselves. Our memories, our stories, and our lives live on as we move forward in this world, creating new memories and building upon our own legacies and histories. Plus, it tastes real good too.
Today, I decided to take a crack at this recipe, as I had originally planned to do with my Grandmother. I felt like it would be a comforting and positive way to grieve and honor her memory. With my mom and dad for visual reference and notes from my father and my Aunt Linda, I have to say, it was delicious, and considering is was a cold and rainy memorial day, it felt so right. It was extra comforting and truly Italian-American soul food.
Serves 6 - 8, depending on who you are feeding!
1 LB Beef
1 LB Pork
1 LB Veal
3 Eggs, 2 whole, one yolk only, mix with fork in small bowl
1 C grated Pecorino Romano
3 Cloves garlic, smashed and bashed
1/2 C Breadcrumbs
S & P
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped small
2 - 3 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes, not too big though
12 OZ frozen peas
72 Oz of Passata (sauced tomatoes)
1 yellow onion
(24 ounces water with washings from passata jars - I put a dash of water in my empty pasta jars and shake it around to collect that left-over tomato power clinging to the jar. I empty the water into mea measuring cup until I get 24 ounces.)
Pre-heat oven to 350,
In a large bowl, mix ground meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese. Mix well but not too much! You don't want to over-work the meat. Roll meatballs into about an 1.5" in diameter and bake for 12 minutes on a baking sheet. Remove and set aside- don't eat em, they arent fully cooked!!! I have to say, my dad made me use his meatball scoop. I was resistance at first, my hands are meatball scoops, BUT this thing was great and my meatballs were so uniform! Check it out here
Now onto the sauce....
Heat a dash of olive oil in large pot, add passata and bring to a simmer. Next, add your peeled but whole yellow onion (I stab it a few times with a fork), allow sauce to return to a simmer again and add meatballs carefully and one by one. Return the sauce to a simmer again, add some of your water and passata mix and then add carrots and potatoes. Allow to cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes and then add frozen peas and salt and pepper, cook for about 60 minutes, continue to add the rest of water to get your consistency where you want it. You don't want it too thick.
When ready to serve, do so with fresh italian bread!
Take Note: Serve your leftovers in Italian Bread, it's a glorious meatball sandwich!