Today I’m going to go in-depth on meatballs… Yeah, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why does it always have to be about meatballs?” Well, meatballs are important to me; an obsession, really. Since I went to college in Arizona (no, not Arizona State), I’ve been on a quest to re-create the meatballs my mother has made famous. OK, maybe “famous” is a stretch, but they are in serious demand within my extended family. On several occasions I’ve asked for the “recipe,” but it doesn’t exist. Making meatballs is an artform, and my mother is the Mary Cassat of meatballs. Now lets make some meatballs!

One thing I’ve been able to pry from Mom is that she uses only 85% lean ground beef. It seems to help make the meatballs softer, and much of the excess fat gets cooked out of the meat. To the meat I add some finely diced onion, parmesean cheese and Progresso brand Italian bread crumbs. Not a specific amount. Just enough. One other secret ingredient evidently is water. Just a little, like 4 3/4 to 4 7/8 tablespoons… It also seemed to make the pre-cooked product a little softer.

ROLLING IS CRITICAL!!! The important thing is to form the meatball with as little compression as possible. Over-rolling with result in a hard, and in this case, under-satisfying meatball experience. Also, no matter what you may have heard, size does matter. I try to roll my balls into orbs about 2 inches across.

Some people like to brown their meatballs before submerging them into the molten depths of the sauce, but not me. We pass the frying pan and go right into the fire. With medium heat, bring the sauce to a boil and then gently place your balls into the sauce. Let the sauce re-heat again to a boil, then set it to low and let everything simmer for a minimum of 2 hours. NOTE: There will be shrinkage! Do not be alarmed. The shrinkage of your balls is caused by the fat content being forced out by the heat. Yeah, it’s the opposite effect of a cold pool, but stay with me here… The fat will form gross little glistening pools on the surface of the sauce and should be skimmed off.

A note on tomato sauce: Granted, sauce, or “gravy,” as Mom calls it, is important, but my dirty little secret today is that I’m using Classico Cabernet Marinara, doctored with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and basil. Yeah, I can make sauce from scratch, but don’t bother because the jar stuff is fine with a little customization.

The “Mom’s meatballs” taste test: My 15 y/o daughters take: “I don’t know. One time you got really close, like two batches ago. These are good, though.” She’s right, but I think I know where it all went wrong…