We've got balls!

My husband and I are preparing ourseves for the upcoming baby. Articles and books suggest stocking up the house and freezer with food you can easily prepare for the first few weeks. In addition to several tubs of pesto and sheets of lasagna there is one other dish that I like to make ahead of time in abundance to quickly consume and satisfy when pressed for time.

These partially cooked meat balls can be defrosted and either finish cooking in a tomato sauce - or baking in the oven and topped with either a bechamel or wine reduction sauce prior to serving.

They're fun to make, but messy, so I recommend making a whole bunch at once! I've halved my recipe so that you can get two batches out of this - though if you're up to it, double it and you'll make four meals in less than an hour!

Don't let the quantity of ingredients intimidate you - use what you have around and adjust the recipe to taste.

meat ballz
Traditional Italian recipes use a mix of veal, pork and beef for the meat portion - but due to the mad cow scare, I usually just stick to pork or pork and turkey (great use for thanksgiving leftovers).

1 lb of ground pork
10 oz of plain bread crumbs (plain wheat are even yummier)
1/2 cup of milk
1 egg
1/4 cup of pecorino romano, grated (if you substitute this cheese with a less salty cheese, be sure to add 2 tbsp of salt)
1/2 of a ground nutmeg (or 2 tbsp)
1 1/2 cups of white, unbleached flour.
1/2 cup of Olive Oil
pepper to taste
salt to taste

Prepare your work surface by sprinkling a little flour and filling a small bowl with the rest of the flour for dredging. Set them aside. In a large mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix in the milk and eggs. Add the pecornio romano and nutmeg and pork and get in there with your hands and combine the ingredients well. Use a tablespoon to regulate the size of the meatballs - you'll want to make them approximately the same size for cooking time. Take a tablespoon of the mixure, roll it into a little ball and drop it in the dredging flour (you may want to make four or five and drop them in this bowl before moving to the next step). Lightly coat the meatballs with flour and place them on your work surface. Continue this until you have finished your mixture.

On the stovetop put a low-wide skillet on a medium flame with the 1/2 cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot (it'll sizzle if you put a drop of water in it) begin adding the meatballs about 1" apart. Wait about 5 minutes and turn them about three times each so that they eavenly coat with a golden-brown finish. Set the browned meatballs aside to cool.

Now you can either divide the meatballs into separate freezer bags or complete cooking them fresh or defrosted in one of the following sauces.

meat ballz: wine reduction sauce
I recommend pouring this sauce over your oven-baked meat ballz. They should be defrosted and placed in a cassarole dish in a 375 degree oven, covered with foil for 30 minutes prior to serving. To have everything ready together, you can start preparing this sauce 5 minutes before your meat ballz are ready.

1/4 cup of olive oil
4 tbsp of white, unbleached flour
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tsp of salt

Either use the skillet where you browned the meatballs, or heat a skillet with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 4 tbsp of flour, continuously stirring. When the flour and oil have combined in a thick, creamy, paste add the wine. Continue stirring to incorporate all the flavors. Add water to adjust the consistency and a pinch of salt in the end. Pull out the casserole dish with your meat ballz and pour this sauce over them. Serve immediately.

meat ballz: bechamel sauce
Like the wine reduction sauce, I recommend pouring this sauce over your baked meat balls.

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups cold milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter in a skillet. When it has stopped foaming, stir in the flour - keep stirring for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the cold milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir and cook until it has thickened. Pull out the casserole dish with your meat ballz and pour this sauce over them. Serve immediately.

meat ballz: tomato sauce
When the meat ballz have finished cooking in the tomato sauce, pull them out of the sauce and serve the tomato sauce on the pasta (as a first course), then the meatballs by themselves (as the second, meat course). To have everything ready together, you should start cooking your pasta 10 minutes before your meat ballz are ready.

1, 30 oz can of purred or crushed tomatoes
1 clove or garlic, crushed
1 tsp of dried chile peppers
1 onion, chopped
4 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 bunch of basil
1 lb of spaghetti
1/4 cup of sea salt
1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated

In a large, deep sauce pan heat add the cold olive oil and crushed garlic clove and hot pepper. Bring slowly up to medium heat and add the onions. Sautee' the onions until they are semi-transparent, then add the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubbling mixure and add the meat ballz. Simmer meat ballz in sauce for about 30 minutes.

Prepare your pasta pan with a fist full of sea salt and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook the recommended cooking time (I ususally shave 2 minutes off the time indicated in the box for pasta al dente).

Strain the meat ballz out of the tomato sauce and put aside to keep warm.

Roughly chop the basil.

When the pasta is ready, mix in the tomato sauce, top with the chopped basil and serve with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. When the pasta course is complete, serve the meat ballz seperately.

Buon Appetito!