RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

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RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Jenise » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:45 pm

The jones for last night's spaghetti and meatballs began on Friday night when we watched an episode of Lidia Bastianich's show on which she made the dish. Besides the usual lust that almost any talk of any pasta induces in me, her meatballs were especially intriguing because of the heavy proportion of finely minced vegetables that went into the meat mixture. She used an Italian word for the ground vegetables that sounded like what the Italian word for paste might be, sounded like 'pistecca'.

I didn't hear any measurements, but to go into what appeared to be about 3/4 lb each beef, veal and pork, she filled the bowl on her food processor almost full with large pieces of onion, celery and carrot, about equal amounts each. It was a surprisingly large amount, and for binding there was only maybe a cup of dry bread crumbs, some cheese, and just one egg. I thought it would be way too wet to hold together--I've never seen anything quite like it.

But they were divine. It was the best spaghetti and meatballs I've ever had. It's not a dish I frankly ever make at home but tend to order in family style immigrant-Italian restaurants, where the meatballs are typically clunkier in texture and not as well seasoned. I've always liked those too, but for my tastes this recipe sets a new standard. The minced vegetables lighten up and refine the meat textures, and the flavor is absolutely outstanding.

For my version, I lightened up the meat mixture by using about 1.25 lb each beef and turkey. Turkey is not only lower in cholesterol, but makes fabulously velvetty, fine-crumbed meatballs and I substitute it for other meats just for this reason anyway. I used fresh soft bread crumbs instead of a dry commercial product, and two eggs instead of one just to be sure. Otherwise used what were fair approximates based on what I saw.

1.25 lb ground beef
1.25 lb ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, big dice
2 smallish carrots peeled and cut into 1" lengths
3 celery ribs peeled and cut into 1" lengths
1 cup soft bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated imported parmesan
2 eggs
About 2 tsp kosher salt

Using a food processor, mince the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix by hand until well-incorporated. Form into meatballs just slightly larger than a golf ball and arrange on a metal baking tray. This will make about 25-30 meatballs. Roast for 20 minutes at 425 F and then drop into your waiting sauce*.

*My sauce cooked while the meatballs were in the oven. It was made out of sauteed onion and garlic, olive oil, fresh bay leaves and chili flakes with a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes and half a cup of white wine. It was plenty to handle the quantity of meatballs as we do not care for heavily sauced pasta.

Didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but for other purposes I did take a shot of the spaghetti I made for the dish, so what the heck, here it is.

IMG_5616.JPG
IMG_5616.JPG (42.56 KiB) Viewed 1115 times
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Frank Deis » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:20 am

That's some beautiful pasta, and an interesting story about the part vegetable meatballs. I got up and found my copy of "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" because I was sure that she'd have a recipe in that for Spaghetti and Meatballs. But what I found there is a mixture of beef and pork with no carrots etc.

At any rate -- bistecca means beef ("beef steak" = bistecca) and I don't think there is a pistecca -- when I Google pistecca it auto-corrects to bistecca.

I wouldn't be too surprised if the recipe, or even a video of the segment, were available online somewhere. Maybe later I can try to find it.
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:41 pm

Perhaps she said 'pastasciutta'? It is a category term for pasta that is boiled and served with sauce, as distinguished from little shapes that you put in soup.

She also might have said 'pasticcio' but I wouldn't think that applies to meatballs!
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:48 pm

The meatball recipe reminds me of the way Weight Watchers presents many of their recipes....many are loaded with veggies in unexpected places. I picked up several of their books years ago after hearing of some very fine recipes. The veggies add moisture, lightness, fiber, vitamins, and flavor, not to mention beautiful color. Thanks for posting this one.
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Jenise » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:47 pm

Frank Deis wrote:That's some beautiful pasta, and an interesting story about the part vegetable meatballs. I got up and found my copy of "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" because I was sure that she'd have a recipe in that for Spaghetti and Meatballs. But what I found there is a mixture of beef and pork with no carrots etc.

At any rate -- bistecca means beef ("beef steak" = bistecca) and I don't think there is a pistecca -- when I Google pistecca it auto-corrects to bistecca.

I wouldn't be too surprised if the recipe, or even a video of the segment, were available online somewhere. Maybe later I can try to find it.


Oh, I'm sure the recipe's out there somewhere, I basically just didn't feel I needed it. I know what I saw. Strange about the word: it sounded just like bistecca with a 'p'. Maybe pestecca? I would swear to three syllables that ended with an 'ah' sound.

Let me tell you why I photogged the spaghetti: a friend and I were recently talking about our Kitchen Aids. They bought the sausage stuffing attachment but didn't like it--it took them several hours to make as much sausage as they stuffed in about 20 minutes with an old fashioned manual stuffer. I said too bad, and mentioned that I loved our pasta attachment. She said au contraire, she hated hers because it won't process a dry dough and they've had terrible results with wet doughs. Boy, not my issue at all, I said, but I'm not happy with the meat grinder as I get metal shavings. Yikes, she's never had metal shavings, that's the one attachment they love! So last week I called Kitchen Aid to ask about the metal shavings, and they're sending me a whole new grinder attachment. So I've sent my friend a picture of my spaghetti--along with the KA Customer Service number. :)
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Jenise » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:07 pm

I've got it: pestata!!

She demoed this recipe on the Today Show a few years back, and the transcript's online. Below is the recipe for the meatballs (with slight variations from what she did on her show, like two eggs instead of one) and the description of pestata which means, as I thought, 'paste'.

Ingredients
For meatballs:
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Everybody loves meatballs. I feel like meatballs are part of Americana. They belong on the American table and this is a great and simple recipe. It calls for three types of meat but a combination of any two or even one will work as well.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the carrot, celery and onion and pulse to make a fine-textured paste or pestata. Scrape pestata into a large bowl and add remaining meatball ingredients. Mix well with your hands to combine all of the ingredients.


Interesting, before I found this, I looked at about four other meatball recipes from her of which almost no two were alike--much less vegetable, as Frank found. But that's cool--there's no one right way to do most things, and most great cooks evolve. My version is in fact more vegetable-intense than hers was, at least in her written recipe. (On the show, she had big quantities of prepared onion, celery and carrot and she just poured them into the processor bowl and stopped when it looked like enough.) I was only cooking for two, but I can't buy turkey in amounts less than 1.25 so I just used that and matched the amount of beef.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Carl Eppig » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:13 pm

This latter recipe is very similar to one we've been using for decades. It comes from a French Chef (!) named Charles Virion, who cooked for such people as John Ringling North and Orson Wells before opening the Monblason Inn in upstate New York:

MEATBALLS:

3/4 lb Ground veal
3/4 lb Ground pork
1/2 lb Ground beef
1 C Fresh soft bread crumbs
3/4 C Beef stock or bullion
1/2 C Chopped Italian broad leaf parsley
1 tsp Minced garlic
1 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Black pepper
1/2 tsp Granulated garlic (garlic powder)
2 Eggs

Soak the bread crumbs in the stock and add everything else. Mix together well with hands in large bowl, cover with wax paper, and refrigerate at least an hour. Form into 20 meat balls. Bake them in meatball rack in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Add to tomato sauce and simmer in sauce thirty additional minutes. Serve with pasta or in sandwiches.
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Re: RCP: Lidia's Meatballs--best ever!

Postby Jenise » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:58 pm

Carl, the combination of the three meats is pretty much usual in Italy, if not in France, but believe me, all the vegetables (essentially, a fine mirepoix) in Lidia's recipe that your recipe doesn't have makes a fantastic difference in both texture and flavor.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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