I’m not very good at a great many things. Despite my median height and more-than-median girth, I’m not very good at basketball (wahurd will second this enthusiastically). My chess game lacks an endgame. I never beat Contra. I’m really, really, really bad at tennis (sorry, Bret).
But, there some things at which I excel. I’m a good driver. I’m at expert level on Wii Tennis. I’m currently on level 25 of Quizup Simpsons trivia. Oh, and I can cook some good foods. So, shit, why not tell you how to cook some good foods? Thus, here’s a new V+V series.
Polpette is just an Italian word for meatballs. You know delicious, whether or not you go all Italian-American and throw them on some spaghetti (it’s totally okay if you do!). You probably don’t know how easy they are to throw together. I’m going to give some vague proportions with the directions so you know what you should add more of or less of, but honestly, fuck recipes.
Some meat: let’s say about a pound. An good old-fashioned English, well American pound, not a British pound’s (£) worth (that would be what, one meatball?). Use whatever fucking meat you want to. Feeling fancy? Mix up some ground beef, lamb, veal, or pork. Some stores sell a “meatloaf” mix, that’s okay too. Feeling not-so-fancy? Ground beef is just fine. Have an uncooked roast lying around? Go ahead and grind that fucker up. Oh, and if you’re feeling especially randy, go ahead and add a hot italian sausage or two to the mix. For, um, seasoning (fat). We’ll get back to this.
First, grab a small onion, or a half a big one. Dice that all up finely. Drop about a tablespoon of olive oil in a big frying or whatever pan, put the fire up the medium-low, and drop the onion in. Throw about a teaspoon of salt on top of that. Cook until it’s nice and browned (but not burned!), pushing it around a bunch while it’s cooking. Your kitchen’s going to start smelling pretty good soon.
When that’s all going, take about a 1/2-3/4 cup of bread crumbs and throw them in a big ol’ bowl. They didn’t come from a fucking blue can, right? Panko’s fine, should you have some of them in your pantry. If you have some bread, grind that up. If you have some sliced bread, I’ll tell you what: just go ahead and rip up a couple of slices.
Now, take about a 1/4 cup of milk and add it to your bread / crumbs. Mash that shit up into a paste. Guess what? You just made a panade, which is another fancy Italian word that I think just means “milk-bread paste.” Apparently it also used to mean some kind of dagger in Chaucer’s English, but that’s not important (look, you’re learning meaningless English trivia in a food post!). Anyways, now that you’ve mix that shit up, add an egg. Hell, if you want, add two if you want, but I usually just add one. Mash that up.
You have your cheese ready now, right? No? Oh, right. Well, grind yourself up some hard cheese: Parmesan or Pecorino or Romano, or Asiago would all work. (Not feeling the dairy? You don’t have to add cheese. I guess you didn’t need to add the milk earlier either. This is just how the shit is done, okay? You can
ruin do it however you want.) You’ll want about a 1/4-1/2 cup of cheese. Mash that in there.
Oh, you see that onion on your stove? That should be just about cooked by now. It’s been, what, about 5-7 minutes at this point? Maybe dice up a couple of garlic cloves and add those to the pan. Oh, quick, turn off the heat! You don’t want to the garlic to burn. It’ll cook a little while it cools a little bit.
Grab some fresh herbs. I’m not going to tell you which ones, but you’ll want a bunch of parsley, and I guess some basil. Those are good ones. Go ahead and chop the shit of those, you’ll want about a 1/4 cup of them when all is said and done. Throw that right on top of your panade/egg/cheese mixture. Now’s a good time to get a good pinch of salt in there—don’t be stingy! Grind some pepper on that shit too. Got nutmeg hanging around? Grind some of that on there too.
Did you turn your oven on yet? Yeah, we’re going to start these fuckers in the oven. It’s not exactly “traditional” but whatever. It’s easier than trying to fry round things in a frying pan. Go head a crank up the heat. If it goes to 550, do that. Otherwise, as hot as it gets.
Get out your sheet pan. You want one of the big ones. Go ahead and put some aluminum foil on top. Spray some non-stick on there. Now, add your meat and the onions to the bowl. With your hands (you have latex gloves, right?), give that shit a good mixing. Once mixed, mold them into 1 1/2 inch balls (bigger than what you probably think they should be). I usually aim for about 12 balls. You can certainly make them bigger and fewer of them!
I usually let them rest a little before I put them in the oven, which is a good time to make the sauce in which we’ll simmer them. Chop up an onion and maybe six cloves of garlic. See that pan you used earlier? Just throw a couple tablespoons of olive oil in there. Put in the onion and a good amount of salt. Cook until it’s all nicely cooked and add the garlic. A couple minutes later, splash in some decent white wine. Cook that a minute, then add a 28-oz can of tomatoes (however you like them), a tablespoon of chopped thyme and five or six chopped leaves of basil, and as much red pepper flakes as is reasonable for your tastes. Go ahead and cook this down a bit.
Now, throw those meatballs in the oven and cook them until they got some brown on them. Not that weak-ass light brown that means they’re not red anymore, dark brown. When they’re all good and dark, take them out of the oven. Don’t forget to turn the oven off! Carefully—carefully!—drop the meatballs one-by-one into your amazing sauce. Give that at least 15 minutes at a simmer to marry the flavors. The longer you go, the meatier, and therefore better, your sauce will be.
Now eat those fuckers. You want pasta? I shouldn’t have to fucking tell you how to make spaghetti; you’re a fucking adult.