Monday, January 9, 2012

Grandmothers Rule!

Congratulations to Kathy Kaminski!  Kathy's grandmother's recipe for Raspberry Rollups won our 2011 Christmas Cookie contest!  The competition was stiff.  We could hardly believe it when we had a tie.  Even in the run-off the scales constantly tipped between Raspberry Rollups and Spicy Gingerbread.  But in the end, Raspberry Rollups won!  I baked them and can assure you that they're wonderful!  A package of cookie baking goodies is on the way to Kathy as her prize.

Coincidentally, the recipe I'm blogging about today is over 100 years old and also came from a grandmother!

I am not Italian.  My mom cooked and baked wonderful dishes when I was growing up, but I'm not one of those people who had a couple of aunts in the kitchen arguing about how to make the best tomato sauce for pasta.  I last made spaghetti and meatballs about eight years ago.  There's a reason I haven't made them since then -- it was a production that ate up hours and hours of time.

Of course, I started with fresh tomatoes and made my favorite tomato sauce, a small production in its own right.  Then I blended ground pork and ground veal with ground beef.  I still recall cooking those meatballs and wondering if they would ever cook through.

And then one day, purely by happenstance, I caught part of a Bobby Flay Throwdown.  If you're not familiar with the throwdowns, they're challenges to make the best version of a particular dish.  Bobby Flay chooses a person who makes a dish that people rave about.  Then Bobby Flay cooks his own version and has a contest to see whose recipe is better.

On this particular show, Bobby Flay went to Maroni Cuisine in Northport, NY and challenged them to a meatball throwdown.  I happened to come along just as Mike Maroni was describing how they make their famous meatballs.  They BAKE them!  Eureka!

All the Italians reading this are probably wondering what the big deal is -- I had no idea that you could bake meatballs.  I would have expected them to be hard and dry.  And get this -- they only use beef -- and precious few ingredients at that.  And their sauce -- no wine!  No green peppers.  It's easy peasy.

So I had to try it.  Now, one little word of caution.  Unless you're trying to impress an Italian boyfriend who loves garlic, do not make this for a date.  It contains nearly an entire head of garlic.  Delicious!  But maybe not the right thing for cuddling up close.

These meatballs were so tender!  They almost melt in your mouth.  Unbelievably good.  From now on, this will be my go-to recipe for meatballs.  Easy and delicious.  I served them to friends, who all said they weren't sure they were the best meatballs they'd ever eaten (okay, let's be honest, one of those friends had an Italian mother-in-law with a special recipe of her own) but they all conceded that they're right up there with the best.  My vote is that they're the best meatballs ever.

I didn't want to change the recipes around, but I wound up making a couple of small changes anyway.  The meatballs should be made with Romano cheese, but I substituted Parmesan cheese.

The sauce calls for olive oil that isn't extra-virgin, but that's what I used and it turned out fine.  It also calls for imported crushed tomatoes, but I used Muir Glen organic.

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs
see the original recipe at Food Network

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan (or Romano)
3 ounces grated Spanish onion
1/4 cup finely diced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all the ingredients and shape into golf ball-size balls.  Place on lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

Maroni Sauce
see the original recipe at Food Network

3/4 cup olive oil
1 large or 2 medium Spanish onions, finely diced 
12 cloves garlic, minced
2-28 ounce cans imported crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 large handful of julienned basil leaves 

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent.  Add everything else, except the basil, and simmer 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the basil, and serve over meatballs.

Buon Appetito!


  1. Congrats to Kathy indeed, very stiff competition this year and I think the way you all ran your competition was terrific. Well done all around!

    Love Throwdown, not as much a competition as a fun way to show "Two ways to cook". 2 BIG cans of tomatoes, that's a lot of sauce, but it does look and sound delicious. I remember that episode, and thought the same thing about the sauce being easy. A Must try. Great post


  2. These look delicious Krista! I make a Mexican meatball soup with baked meatballs--yummy!

  3. Thanks, Dave. I'm glad you enjoyed the Christmas Cookie contest. If you or anyone else have comments on how we can improve it, please let us know. We had fun baking the cookies!

    You know, it did seem like a lot of sauce. After the meatballs were done, I put them into the sauce and ladled out sauce with the meatballs. I was completely surprised that we ate every last drop of that big pot of sauce.

    ~ Krista

  4. Lucy, I hope you'll post your Mexican meatball soup recipe sometime. I've never had it!

    ~ Krista

  5. Krista - On the New York foodie scene, meatballs are bigger than ever--no matter the size, lol! I'm glad of that because I grew up with them and always enjoy them. Great post for a delicious favorite.

    ~ Cleo

  6. I have always baked my meatballs. It keeps the stove open for making noodles and sauce. Cook them on baking racks over cookie sheets and it drains off the grease.
    At Halloween I press a stuffed green olive in the meatballs and serve them as eyeballs.

  7. Cleo, I'm sure you have a great meatball recipe. I hope you'll share it sometime.

    ~ Krista

  8. Sara, I love the meatball eyeball! What a great idea!

    ~ Krista

  9. Congrats, Kathy! I enjoyed the Cookie Contest, too!

    Krista, my first thought on the meatballs was that's a lot of eggs for a pound of meat! I like to experiment so I'll give them a try next time, but shhhh, don't tell Mom, ok? ;)

  10. Thanks so much everyone. I'm so pleased that everyone enjoyed Nana's cookies-my mom is beyond thrilled. I'll be taking my winnings to her house and we plan to spend a day baking together!