Since I have been cooking regional Italian food professionally for quite some time, the dreaded request from guests…“why don’t you have spaghetti and meatballs on your menu” inevitably rears its ugly head. It has become a topic of “conversation” at almost every Italian restaurant that either I have had the pleasure of being the Executive Chef or I have owned. Don’t get me wrong..I love Spaghetti and Meatballs, my Irish mother makes fantastic Spaghetti and Meatballs, and it is something I remember requesting for my birthday when my mom would take requests for Birthday dinners. However, I never put it on the menu at any restaurant…and this is why: There’s no such thing as Spaghetti and Meatballs in Italy. Never has, never will. When I think of the many outstanding regional specialties of Italy I wonder “why do people feel that it should be on the menu at an Italian restaurant?”
Maybe, sometimes….”Spaghetti just likes to be alone” a line from my favorite movie Big Night so poignantly states.
Then I remember…that going to a restaurant can bring back many memories for people. When we gather around a table, inevitably, the center of attention is the food, and somehow if it all comes together the food can bring us back to a simpler time when we all enjoyed each others company instead of checking how many “likes” you received on your latest Facebook post. And of course Spaghetti and Meatballs can bring back those memories for many of us. It does for me. I come from a large Italian/Irish family and I vividly remember the smell of the meatballs cooking in olive oil, the hint of garlic simmering and that unique smell of the “macaroni” as my father called it boiling in the salted water. And really that is what it is all about. It may not be truly Italian…but it is Italian American and for that reason I now put it on some menus.
I however will not serve my meatballs with Spaghetti, I prefer Orecchiette. When portioning the meatballs, make them the size of a ping pong ball, not too big so they don’t dry out. The recipe I have posted are for meatballs made in the Pugliese style, a lot of fresh herbs, Pecorino cheese and red wine take these meaty orbs to another level. Enjoy with a bold glass of Negroamaro from Puglia and finish off with some Amaro and then you can create new memories.
To see the full recipe for Pugliese Meatballs, click here!