Nanny's Meatballs & Sauce Recipe

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Growing up I used to love going to Nanny's (my father's mother) house in Philadelphia for primarily one reason: The food.

I didn't really know my Nanny and Pop-Pop as an adult. My knowledge and understanding of both of them was from the perspecitive of a child. A child with hyperactivity and a low tolerance for boredom.

They lived at 11th St. in North Philadelphia, very close to Temple University Hospital, it was rowhomes and concrete with a tiny patch of grass behind each house. In some ways, it is much like Hoboken, but I think Hoboken's beautiful brownstones and history make the bland Philadelphia brick structures pale in comparison.

But growing up in the green sprawling suburbs, it was like being exiled to Romania for a day. Our family would visit about every other month, I think. Everything about this section of Philly was gray to me and dark. Their couches had plastic on it and there was a faint musty smell in the house. The family room was painted a periwinkle color, which was all the rage in 1960's fashion - and not one bit of furniture was ever changed in all my years that I visited. But, there was the good meatballs and sausages to look forward to each time my family arrived for a Sunday dinner.

Now that i'm teaching myself how to cook, I asked my mother if she had any good recipes. One of the first she sent was Nanny's Meatballs & Sauce Recipe. I read it and my first reaction was:

That's it?!

If you are expecting something mind blowing, you are going to be unbelieveably disappointed. This recipe is simple, but the results are delicious - even my roommates agree and it was devoured by everyone at The Live 3 BBQ. Try it, what do you have to lose? The whole list of ingredients will cost about $15 and easily feed 4 to 6 people.

Nanny's Tomato Sauce:
28 oz of diced roma tomatoes (I use Cento)
12 oz of tomato paste
2 tbsp of dried basil
2 tbsp of dried oregano
2 tbsp of sugar
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Put the diced tomatoes into a large saucepan. Add the tomato paste, and fill up the empty tomato paste can with water and add it to the saucepan (1:1 ratio of paste:water). When you measure out the basil and oregano, make sure you crush the herbs in your hands before adding to the sauce - to release all the flavor. Bring pot to a boil (medium heat) - until it begins to bubble. Then lower the temperature to low, so that the bubbles gently break the surface (i.e. simmering). Cover saucepan and let simmer for 2 hours. Stir every 15 minutes to prevent the sauce from sticking.

Nanny's Meatballs:
2 pounds ground veal
1 egg
1/2 tsp of garlic salt
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
kosher salt (to taste)
3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.

Wash your hands. Get a large bowl, toss all the ingredients into the bowl and mix with your hands. Careful not to go overboard on the salt. Roll the mixture in your hands to make medium sized meatballs and add to sauce. Make sure saucepan is covered and don't stir sauce for 15 minutes. When you do stir, be careful or you can break the meatballs.

Bonus addition:
If you like sausage, grab a pack of Premio Sweet Italian Pork Sausage Links (16 oz). Cut each link into 3 inch pieces, put them on a baking sheet and into the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes - the bottoms should get somewhat browned & crispy. Once cooked, add the sausage links to the sauce, along with the meatballs. The meatballs and sausage combine with the tomato sauce to make a wonderful gravy.

I know what the cynics out there are thinking - Gee, real hard recipe. I know. I agree. It's very basic.

But sometimes it's the most simple things in life that are the most wonderful, wouldn't you agree?

Plus, how many times have you wanted a quick meal? Here is what I do, if I am not feeing four to six people. I take a Ziploc 1/2 gallon plastic bag. I add 2 meatballs and 1 sausage, along with some sauce. I then take each bag and put them in the freezer - I have about 6 or 7 bags.

The recipe now becomes a convienent quick meal that you can heat up when you get home from work and are too tired to cook and sick of ordering chinese food. Maybe you get back from the bars at 3 a.m. and you are really hungry - boil up some pasta and reheat the meatballs, sausage and sauce in the microwave. Afraid of carbs? Ditch the pasta or get whole wheat pasta.

Oh, just a reminder. Many times in the meat sections in Hoboken, you won't find ground veal. You have to ask the butcher to make it for you. The store that has the best butcher's hours is the Shop Rite at 900 Madison. A&P at 7th and Clinton is a close second. The downtown Kings never has ground veal and the butcher hours are terrible. I haven't tried the uptown Kings.

Grab a bottle of Robert Mondavi 2002 Merlot ($21 at A&P), some fresh italian bread from Vito's and you have a nice little meal.

Of course, instead of going through all this trouble, you can try the meatballs & sausage at our next BBQ in late September.

1 Comment

Two things:

1. Traitor-- Hoboken is rich in history but North Philly isn't? You realize that North Philly USED to be inhabited by the different immigrant groups as they came in? Frankfurt was Italian at one point, Fishtown was Polish... now it's a bad area but geez!!! I'd rather live there than here any day.

2. Remind me to send you my Nana's recipe for braciole. You can cook it in your gravy as you cook your gravy. Tasty tasty!! It was a big hit when I cooked it last.


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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on August 12, 2005 12:53 AM.

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