So, I really cannot explain it. I have no excuse. Why I have not taken more time to learn some real Italian cooking from Noni next door is beyond me. I think I know one reason: that time that I had a job. But NOW- nap time is the perfect time to learn a few secrets from our very own neighborhood Noni.
Noni lives next door with her daughter’s family (best.neighbors.ever). I have feasted on many a pasta dish and meatball next door, and every time, I say to myself “I need this recipe”. In fact, Noni even showed up at our door a few weeks ago with a baked ziti and meatballs dish intended for my parents while they were staying with Evie. Unfortunately for them, they had just left, and I don’t think Noni had even blinked an eye before I had snatched the pasta dish out of her hands and my mouth started watering. DE-lish.
I needed details.
So she came over today during Evie’s nap time, and together, we made some meatballs. She also gave me the secrets behind her amazing marinara sauce which I promptly prepared as soon as she walked out the door.
A few tips that either I knew and didn’t understand or didn’t know at all!
1) The reason you leave the eggs out to reach room temperature is so that the whites will completely separate from the shell. Otherwise, they stick and it’s tricky to get them out.
2) When forming the meatballs, continue to add water to your hands so they don’t stick.
3) Sprinkle salt on your baking sheet instead of adding more oil or cooking spray. Keeps the meatballs from sticking, seasons the meat, and eliminates excess fat.
4) Crushed tomatoes are not the same thing as diced tomatoes (probably should have known that, but never really stopped to think about it).
5) Gluten free? No problemo! Replace the bread crumbs in the recipe with an extra egg to bind the meat together.
1 lb lean ground beef (I used 85/15 dry aged ground beef)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of water (she measured this out using the egg shells, which I thought was clever)
salt/pepper (roughly 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper)
1 tsp garlic powder
Preheat your oven to 325F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands, mix well together. Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. I took about 1/4 cup of the mixture and made meatballs. You can make more or less, depending on how large you want them. I churned out 9 meatballs and baked them for 25 minutes until they were nicely browned on the outside. Flip them as soon as they come out of the oven.
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar
In a large saucepan, heat up the olive oil on high. Add the onion/garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and allow it to simmer until most liquid has cooked off. No more than 2 hours, says Noni! Serve with the meatballs and some delicious pasta!
Meanwhile, Evie is 8 months old. Here is what she’s been up to lately: crawling(!), going from laying down to sitting position, eating whole peas by herself, screeching at all dogs and small children that look like dogs, trying to eat my camera.