I was somewhere. That’s all I remember. It was recent, an office of some kind perhaps, seriously I can’t remember and it was like a week before I made this recipe. For the past two weeks I have wracked my brain and sent it through the ringer trying to remember where I was and if my hair was on fire, I couldn’t remember.
What I DO remember was the TV was on. I couldn’t tell you how big the TV was, if it was new or old, flat or tube (probably flat right?). It was color though, I know that. It was tuned to the Food Network and playing “The Barefoot Contessa”.
Have you ever seen this show? Is that the real name of the show? I’m honestly too lazy to look it up right now. I have to admit, I’ve HEARD of Contess in passing but had no idea who she was until this single moment in time. I live in a bubble, give me some slack.
Anyway, sweet old Contess was in her perfect little stage kitchen making up some wicked spaghetti and meatballs. I was drawn to her; she was calm. Her voice and demeanor was so soothing compared to Rachael Ray, who I’m pretty sure “YUMMO” is secret code for a speed drug. Or Guy Fierri-Feireriri – however you spell it; that bearded burger guy, who I’ve never watched either; or Gustapo Gordon Ramsey who reminds me a LOT of a company commander I had in NAVY bootcamp once. I just like calm, quiet in my life and bouncy people who resemble Tigger are really not fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.
The most incredible lie about Tigger is, he’s NOT the only one. The rest all have cooking shows, with the exception of Ty what’s-his-name from Extreme Home Makeover.
So I sat and watched Contess mix and make her pretty meatballs and thought, “I bet you didn’t know it, but I’m a meatball maker too, and I’ll bet a griddle of gold against. your sole, that I make them better than you.”
Oh come on! Like you’ve never cooked something you saw by some chef on TV and didn’t make it better? That’s why it’s called “adaptation”. She wasn’t listening anyway.
So I put it in my head to make some meatballs. I found her recipe for spicy turkey meatballs and spaghetti through my friend Google and adapt I did.
First off, she used turkey. Good for your arteries, but I’m not going for that here. Try that in the next life. I went all in, beef and pork. She used prosciutto, which we love so she gets major props for that, but I triple upped her on this by adding capicola and salami. She didn’t use garlic and in this alone I almost petitioned to have her “Contessa” status removed. It’s practically illegal to make Italian meaty or saucy things without garlic. Wrong Contess, wrong.
Then she used sauce a la jar. I get it, time is of the essence and on a 30 minute show featuring two separate pieces of the same recipe, you have to choose. I don’t dock her on this but pasta sauce in a jar or sealed can, shipped to a store on an 18 wheeler, hasn’t darkened my pantry shelves in nearly ten years. Why? It’s so ridiculously easy to make; which is what we are doing here.
So is this an adaptation or an all new recipe? Where does the line between adaptation and original begin? I think it’s a very blurry, wiggly line to be honest, if not completely made up by some blowhard cook who got their panties in a tizzy when someone made a recipe “almost” like theirs. What I do know, is that after this was served, my very particular husband exclaimed (quite enthusiastically)
Oh my god honey! These are the best meatballs I’ve ever had. In. My. Life.”
I’ll take it!
Now come on, Contessa is reading us all bedtime stories.
- 3 cups fresh bread, crusts removed, cut into small chunks *
- 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 14oz can petit diced tomatoes
- 2 4oz cans tomato paste
- pasta of your choice
- 5 oz olive oil
- ⅔ cup milk
- ½ cup dry red wine (optional)
- 1 ½ lb lean ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground Italian pork sausage
- 4 oz prosciutto, finely chopped
- 3 oz capicola, finely chopped
- 3 oz salami, finely chopped
- ½ cup asiago cheese
- ½ cup romano or parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced & divided in 2 parts
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano OR 3 Tbsp fresh oregano, divided
- 1 ½ Tbsp Italian seasoning
- salt & pepper
- Combine the cans of tomatoes, paste, onion, ½ the garlic & oregano, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, olive oil & wine if using in a large sauce pot. Cook on medium-low heat for an hour (the longer the better the flavor).
- Preheat the over to 350 & line a couple of sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Put the bread through a food processor or chop until crumbly.
- Combine the milk and bread and set aside for now.
- Combine all the meats, cheeses, remaining garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, ½ the oregano & salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a fork, lightly combine the breadcrumbs with the meat then add in 2 Tbls of olive oil and the egg.
- Roll the meat into 2 inch balls * & stick them on your pans about 1 inch apart.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Don't forget to cook your pasta (I really don't need to tell you how).
- Serve topped w/ fresh grated cheese, cut basil and/or oregano.
- You can use any bread, but a good rustic bread from the bakery of your local grocer adds a lot of flavor.
- You can buy premade sauce to save time but trust me, make a lot of this stuff, play w/ the spices and you'll never buy store bought sauce again.
- You can let the sauce sit on low heat for hours if you want. It only enhances the flavor.
- To keep things clean, use an ice cream scoop to make pretty, equal sized meatballs.
- Make sure you have a drip pan on the bottom shelf of your oven if you are using a sheet w/o sides. Your fire alarm monitoring company will thank you.