Friday, December 27, 2013

An Italian-American Holiday Tradition: Turkey Meatballs (from Molto Italiano)

These are so good and so easy! 

Spaghetti and meatballs at Christmas was one of the family traditions I loved best growing up in my 
Italian-American household. For days before the holiday, my Uncle David would tend-to and simmer a big pot of red sauce with meatballs, pork sausage and sometimes pork ribs too. We'd dip slices of fresh Italian bread slathered in salted butter into the sauce to satisfy our hunger pangs as the hours until Christmas ticked by. Then, on the big day, we'd heap the meatballs and sauce, dark and rich, onto al dente spaghetti and top everything off with grated parmesan cheese! 

*I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Every Wednesday and Saturday my grandfather would bring fresh loaves of Italian bread from the Sunrise Bakery to our house. Last time I checked, their bread is now only sold at Crosby's Marketplaces (in Beverly and Hamilton, MA) and perhaps only on Saturday mornings. If you live near there you should definitely try it!

My uncle would also make a big roast beef that was perfectly pink inside and crusty and delicious outside (my mom always called it "roast beast" ala The Grinch). It was a real treat to get a delicious crusty slice off the end of the roast right after it came out of the oven. Salty goodness.

Because I was/am too preggers to travel this year, the hubby and I hunkered down in NYC, just the two of us and our bump, and decided to make spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce our Christmas Eve tradition. I used Mario Batali's turkey meatball recipe because it is fabulous, easy and the meatballs always come out nice and fluffy. This recipe is particularly great because the turkey meat is much lighter than the usual pork/beef variety. Bonus!  

I followed Batali's recipe almost exactly. I didn't make his sauce, however, or my own for that matter. I just used Whole Food's Organic Italian Herb Tomato Sauce to which I added a teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary. It was SO good.

Mario Batali's Turkey Meatballs from Molto Italiano (only very slightly altered)
Polpettine di Tacchino
Yield: about 30-40 small meatballs
2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup milk, any fat content you have on hand is fine
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, I pulsed mine so they ranged from fine to chickpea sized
4 gloves garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced finely
1/2 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
Tablespoon kosher salt
Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 475.

In a large bowl toss together the bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add the milk and eggs and toss everything to combine it. Add the meat and gently massage it with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Your don't want to overwork the meat, but you do want to get all the lumps and knots of meat kneaded out and work the entire mass into a fluffy consistency. 

Gently roll a heaping tablespoon of the mixture between wet palms to shape. Be careful to use a light touch and not pack the meat together into a hard ball. Place each meatball just a little apart from the next in a casserole dish coated with olive oil. 

Once the meatballs are all formed. Cook them for 15 minutes at 475While they're cooking, make a simple sauce or doctor up a jarred one. 

After 15 minutes remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Toss the meatballs in the sauce and bake for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour. Garnish with chopped parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve hot with crusty bread and al dente spaghetti. So good!!!