Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Fettucini and Meatballs in Marinara

This one is a stretch to call 90%, I think. Certainly 90% of the cost of this meal went to local ingredients, but some of the bulkier ingredients weren't local.

The marina is the least-local portion of the meal, and that's my husband's mother's fault, god rest her soul. My husband's favorite meal is his mother's spaghetti, which family legend has it was passed down to her by her husband's mother, an Italian woman who immigrated in 1906. So of course when I married him, I got the recipe from his mom.

Well, maybe old Mrs. Finocchiaro had to make do with what she could find when she moved to South Philly from Sicily as a young married woman, but I really can't believe she strayed this far from her roots:


1/2 stick Olio
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c dried parsley
1 T salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1 15-oz can Hunts sauce
1 12-oz can Hunts tomato paste

Brown the beef in the olio, drain off excess fat, and add the onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Saute 10 minutes and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 2 - 3 hours.

When I first saw this recipe, I suspected my (of Swiss extraction & raised in Bucyrus, Ohio) mother-in-law had massively adapted her mother-in-law's recipe to what could be found at the Foodarama (I swear that was the name of our local grocery store) in Dayton Ohio in the 1950s. So the first time I made it for my husband, I tried to take it back to Italy at least a little. I skipped the olio, used fresh parsley and garlic, and used nothing but whole San Marzano tomatoes plus a little beef stock to make a long-cooked sauce.

My husband said, 'This is really good, but it's not my mom's sauce.'

So I relented. Other than starting with a 'half stick of olio' and then draining it off (I just saute the onions and seasonings while the beef is browning in its own juices) I now use The Recipe. It's become my son's favorite meal. Someday I'll probably be handing it over to a daughter in law. Sigh. On the bright side, it's the easiest dinner I ever make, the ingredients are always in my cupboards, and my husband and son are delighted to see it every week. So while I'll never love this sauce, I do love having a go-to recipe for crazy days.

The meatballs have only one non-local ingredient (the romano -- cheese as always is a challenge to find locally.) These are adapted from the recipe used at Maroni's in Northport, NY on Long Island and featured on one of my guilty pleasures, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. It's an odd meatball recipe, with four times as much egg and breadcrumb and twice as much milk as most meatball recipes contain. Maroni jokingly refers to it as 'more of a quiche' and I have to agree. They're probably not for everyone, but they're growing on me. Changes I made: I used half beef/half pork because that's what I prefer (the recipe calls for all beef.) I didn't have enough garlic, parsley, or basil in the house to meet the recipe's specifications and ended up halving the amounts -- for instance, the recipe called for 2 ounces of garlic. Well, a full head of organic garlic weighs less than an ounce. Same with the parsley and basil -- I chopped a mountain of both and ended up with just an ounce of each, so while the recipe called for 2 ounces of each, 1 ounce is what I used. I'll probably try to follow the specified amounts next time, and probably I'll add ground pepper, too, now that I've tasted the finished meatballs.


1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
4 ounces dried bread crumbs
4 large eggs
4 ounces whole milk
6 ounces grated Romano
3 ounces grated onion
1 ounce pressed fresh garlic
1 ounce Italian parsley, chopped
1 ounce basil, choppped

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a baking sheet lightly with olive oil.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl.

Roll meatballs loosely to about the size of a large golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serves six (about 3 large meatballs each.)

For pasta, I used the garlic fetuccini made by Rossi's, which is made in Marietta Ohio, about 200 miles from here and probably not with local grains. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a truly local product made with local grains, because that seems like something I ought to be able to find here in the middle of farm country.

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