In our house, marinara’s a religion. Week after week, I make the inevitable batch of tomato sauce to be simply served on pasta or to pair with changing mains: sausage, shrimp, kebabs etc. Or I turn it into butternut lasagna, pork scaloppini, stuffed tofu shells, you name it.
On my latest cookbook La cuisine de mon enfance, my first as associate editor, I had the pleasure of working with many Québec chefs, including Michele Forgione who shared his childhood recipe of Trijjdi vallatese or Cavatellis with meatballs, a fairly labor-intensive pasta dish requiring fresh homemade pasta, a meaty sauce… and meatballs. THE meatballs. The ones you dream about when you imagine everything a meatball should be, but rarely is. The book also features his recipe for Veal Meatballs a la Marcovecchio, which I’m so trying after this one.
Chef Michele Forgione in a photograph from the book, taken inside Gema Pizzeria
which I previously presented here on the blog.
Impasto, the new and popular restaurant headed by chef Forgione and his partner Stefano Faita, is one of the must-visit addresses of Montreal’s famed Little Italy neighbourhood.
At the end of the day, with all due respect, I made a few changes not out of nonconformism but because I was working with what I had. For example, the original recipe calls for all-veal, or a mix of veal and beef or pork. I had only ground beef in the freezer, so there. And chef Forgione recommends plain breadcrumbs but Monsieur, out of my sight and bent on improvisation, had bought a huge canister of seasoned “Italian” breadcrumbs, which we’re struggling to use up.
Also, the original recipe has you frying the meatballs in olive oil until brown on all sides before adding to the sauce in the last 20 minutes of cooking. I wanted to skip the frying, so I quick-froze them for 10 minutes, then dumped them in my homemade marinara you can find here. As a result, some broke apart in the sauce, giving it a nice, cheesy richness, which was no drawback whatsoever. But if your heart yearns for the perfect rounded meatball, toothsome and golden and photogenic, you may want to go ahead and fry up those suckers.
Sorry for playing fast and loose with your recipe, chef, I guess I’m a free spirit (Monsieur would put it down to a contrary nature…).