Frankie’s meatballs (pasta sauce)
This is the recipe with which my friend Frankie Imbergamo, from Boston, won the Emeril's Italian contest in August 2005. It's a great recipe and I am very happy to publish it as a tribute to Frankie's constant effort to keep the Italian cooking tradition alive. Frankie's original recipe shows ingredients for about 8 people, while the version here serves 4 (a total of 8 balls – two balls per person).
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- 400 grams (14 oz) large pasta like conchiglie or paccheri
- 500 grams (1.1 lb) minced beef
- 2 Eggs (medium size)
- 50 grams (2 oz) Breadcrumbs (finely grated)
- 50 grams (2 oz) Pecorino Romano cheese (freshly grated) – alternatively you can use Parmesan cheese
- 1 Clove of garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 grams (1/2 tsp) Salt
- 1 gram (1/2 tsp) Ground black pepper
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) Extra virgin olive oil
- A small handful of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
Ingredients for the gravy (Metric & Imperial measurements):
- 1 Small sized onion (finely chopped)
- 1 Clove of garlic (finely chopped)
- 60 grams (2 ½ oz) Tomato purèe
- 450 grams (1 lb) Chopped tomatoes (usually 1 can)
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) Hot water for the gravy preparation
For the final stage:
- 600 ml (1 pint – 2 1/2 cups) Hot water
- Salt and ground pepper for seasoning
- A couple of sprigs of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
- We start preparing the meatballs combining all the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a large bowl. Add the eggs to the meat firstly.
- Mix thoroughly to evenly distribute the eggs with the meat.
- Add the Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Add the breadcrumbs.
- Add the chopped parsley and garlic.
- Add the salt.
- Finally, add the black pepper and mix thoroughly together in order to combine all the ingredients. At this stage I find easy to blend the ingredients by hand like working on a pasta dough.
- Then, start making your balls. Remember to compress the ball with your hands so they are very compact and will not crack. This is important because a ball with any cracks, or not compact enough, may break during the shallow frying stage.
- Now, heat the 60 ml olive oil (1/4 cup) in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs over medium heat until golden brown.
- If the meatballs stick to the bottom of the pan, you may use a non-stick frying pan or you can fry the meatballs two at a time and keep rolling them in the hot oil.
- Place the meatballs on a new clean plate or a tray.
- Do not discard the olive oil but filter it into a small bowl in order to remove the residue created when frying the meatballs.
- Now, add the filtered oil to the cleaned frying pan because now we are going to prepare the gravy.
- In the frying pan, heat the reserved oil, add the chopped onion and garlic and a sweat off for about 2 minutes.
- Then, add the tomato purèe…
- …and cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Then, add 150 ml (5/8 cup) of hot water to the frying pan and…
- …cook for one minute, stirring. The gravy is done, so remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- Now, it's time to deal with the final stage of the recipe. In a large saucepan (also a casserole would do the job), add the chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Then, add the gravy (tomato purèe mixture) from the frying pan.
- Add the reserved browned meatballs.
- Cover with hot water. In my case, I used a very large saucepan so to cover the meatballs I needed 600 ml (1 pint – 2 1/2 cups) of water. A slightly smaller saucepan would probably require less water, I would say 400 ml (3/4 pint – 1 3/4 cups).
- Add the chopped parsley.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Add a pinch of black pepper.
- Mix thoroughly, but carefully, with a wooden spoon, so as to not break the meatballs. Now, cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, then…
- …cover (leaving one side of the lid slightly open) and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent sticking on bottom of the pan. Also, when doing that, turn the meatballs so the part that was in the top will get the next 20 minutes cooking facing the bottom and keep going like that until the end. After 1 1/2 hours simmering, check for seasoning; usually you need to add some salt.
- Now, serve the meatballs over al dente pasta (I used "paccheri" from Puglia region of Italy but large shells or rigatoni would do the job as well). Also, use the red sauce from the pan to coat the pasta. Finally, sprinkle with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (alternatively Parmesan cheese).
- Buon appetito and "many thanks" to Frankie for sharing his recipe and allowing me to publish it on the Italyum website.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!