Culinary Sleuth


In Search of the Perfect Meat Ball

by Lynn Kerrigan


Boiled Meat

I tend to envision grayish globs when the term boiled meat comes to mind. Never mind that the term never actually comes to mind. You know what I mean. Boiled meat doesn't sound appetizing. It sounds rather British and we all know that British fare has a notably bland history.

Boiled meat is for peasants not gourmets. My ignorance was dislodged at an early age.

I discovered the perfect meat ball when barely in my teens and it was boiled! Up to that time, my only encounter with Italian home cooking was my mother's version of spaghetti and meat balls. My mother was never a good cook. Serendipity in the guise of a new girl friend who happened to be 100% Italian, stepped in. So Italian was she, her mother could speak only a few words of English, though she'd been in the country for nearly 12 years. One visit to Theresa's house found me perched on a vinyl clad bar stool at the kitchen breakfast counter, a rectangular wedge of avocado green Formica. Theresa and I enjoyed an after school snack while her mother prepared the family's evening meal. I was fascinated as Theresa's mother's deft fingers shaped the meat mixture into perfectly shaped, rather large globes. I was dumfounded when she plopped the raw rounds into boiling water.

"Is that how your mother always makes meat balls?" I asked Theresa. "No. Sometimes she fries them. Sometimes she cooks them in the oven and occasionally she cooks them in the gravy," replied my friend. "Gravy?" I asked. "You mean sauce, don't you."

"We call it gravy." She said.

After boiling the meat balls, Theresa's mother carefully dropped them into the slow simmering tomato gravy and when done to her taste she presented me with three of the gravy kissed meat globes. I found myself in meat ball heaven. My mother listened dutifully to my gushing meat ball story and much to my surprise, her meat balls, using the same method, came out near as perfect. To this day I am known for my famous meat balls.


Meatballs Cooked in Sauce

This recipe does not use a high proportion of meat. Many good cooks and chefs believe this is the secret to good meatballs.

  • 2 pounds freshly ground beef
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 quart of your homemade tomato-based sauce

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, except oil and sauce. Cover and chill thoroughly (at least two hours).

Heat oil and brown the meatballs. Remove from pan. Heat sauce to boiling. Add meatballs. Turn heat to low. Simmer 30 minutes.


Fried Meatballs

  • 3/4 pound ground beef or ground veal
  • 1/4 pound sausage, without skin
  • 1 boiled potato
  • 1 slice roasted red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • grated Parmigiano
  • salt & pepper
  • Extra Virgin olive oil

Put the veal or beef, sausage, potato and red pepper in food processor and blend well. Add eggs, 2 tablespoons parmigiano, salt & pepper. Shape mixture into balls and fry in olive oil.


Nibbles & Bits
Interesting Food Facts

Macaroni Causes Fat-Bellied Conceit

In the early thirties, Italy was appalled when F. T. Marinetti, the founder of Futurist poetry and painting, published his Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine, which called for a ban on all pasta on the grounds that pasta was responsible for "the weakness, pessimism, inactivity, nostalgia, and neutralism" he saw all around him. Italians, who should be thin, the better to ride in "ultra light aluminum trains," should eat only rice as a starch. Macaroni was a "symbol of oppressive dullness, plodding deliberation, and fat-bellied conceit." Needless to say, no one paid heed to Marinetti's words of wisdom.

Sacred Grains

The Chinese, who have been cultivating them for thousands of years, considered soybeans so important to their diet it was one of their five sacred grains (together with rice, wheat, barley and millet.) But the soybean's potent nutritive value wasn't confirmed until the 20th century and America ignored soybeans until about 1920, probably because the flavor is bland. It differs from other legumes because it is low in carbohydrates and high in protein. There are over 1,000 varieties of this legume.

Miracle Rye

Rye is now noted as the "wonder grain" in fighting cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association's Heartline newsletter, Finnish studies found rye and other whole grains have a stronger protective effect than fiber-rich foods like fruit, vegetables and cereal.

Free Recipes and Food Info

America's Favorite Pear Recipes from Favorite Chefs
Send business-size SASE to:
America's Favorite Pear
c/o CA Pear Advisory Board
1521 "I" St.
Sacramento, CA 95814.

Bashes, Balls and Bridal Buffets—Party Tips from Pros.
Send business-size SASE to:
Pimento Canners of America
595 Post Oak Road
Bellville, TX 77418.

How to Pick A Better Juice
Send SASE to:
Tropicana Dole Beverages
PO Box 338,
Bradenton, FL 34206Teaching & Tasting At The Table
To help teach kids about world cultures through cuisine, readers can obtain an 18-page brochure filled with information, ethnic recipes and ways to get the whole family involved with dinner. For a copy of Teaching and Tasting at the Table, send business-size SASE to:
Teaching and Tasting at the Table,
PO Box 10383,
Des Moines, IA 50306.


Copyright 1997 Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.

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