Happy New Year!
Last week, our long time friend, Vinny (aka “Papa”), who is 100% Italian (half Sicilian on his dad’s side and half Neapolitan on his mom’s side) and born and bred in New York City, came over to show me how to make his mother’s most awesome meatballs. What a great day! Not only did I get to try this super authentic recipe but I also got to hear all about Mama Tilly (Matilda) and her sandwich truck, Mother’s Oven, from which she sold these killer meatballs in hero sandwich, topped with marinara sauce and cheese, to very happy customers. These meatballs are so flavorful and so tender and light, it’s like eating air.
We doubled the recipe so we had plenty to share with others, just like Tilly would have but the recipe below is a single batch.
Mama Tilly’s Meatballs
1/3 pound ground beef (we ground our own rump roast)
1/3 pound ground veal (we ground our own veal steaks)
1/3 pound Italian sausage
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly crushed garlic
1 ½ freshly ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
½ tablespoon freshly chopped oregano
½ teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
4 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Around 1 cup of water, more or less (filtered if you have poor water quality)
48 ounces of marinara (homemade or store bought and doctored to your own taste)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook or heat your marinara in a large stock pot, then reduce temperature to low heat.
Mix all other ingredients except for water together. We used the paddle attachment on the electric mixer but Tilly used to do it by hand, of course. Once everything is incorporated, start adding water, a little at a time, until the meat mixture no longer sticks to your hand. Vinny calls this stage “foie gras”.
Now that you’ve hit foie gras, it’s time to make the balls. Vinny likes his balls the size of his fist, which is a good rule to live by – everyone gets a meatball the size of their fist. But, make them whatever size you like. Place the meatballs on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and cook 20-25 minutes or until the outside starts to brown.
Remove meatballs from oven and carefully place in the pot of marinara sauce. Cook on low heat at least 2 hours. The mixture should not be simmering or boiling, just a few bubbles here and there. DO NOT STIR! To “stir” the meatballs, simply pick up the pot and rotate in such a fashion as to swirl the meat balls around in the pot to mix them up. Do not use a spoon if you can help it as you risk breaking up the meatballs. If you have to use a spoon, tread lightly.
Today we served Tilly’s meatballs family style over fresh pasta. So delicious.
Thank you, Vinny, for sharing Mama Tilly’s meatballs with me. They were amazing.