Mama’s Italian Meatballs!

Hello again, friends! I hope everyone enjoyed their extended holiday weekend, we certainly did! Tikki got a surprise visit from his Nana & Poppa, it completely made his day. He always gets so excited when people visit, especially when Nana & Poppa visit.

Anyway, let’s talk about meatballs, since that’s what we’re making today.  When I make meatballs (and all Italian food really) it floods my mind with memories of my grandmother cooking and her teaching me how to cook. It also brings up memories of her cussing me out in Sicilian for tasting the food too often, I mean can you blame me? That shit was delicious!

She was, and still is, such an inspiration to me.  So, this post is for her. Let’s get rolling….

Ingredients: 

1 lb ground pork

1 lb ground beef

1/2 cup of milk (low carbers, you can use beef stock here instead of milk if you’d like)

1/3 cup of bread crumbs (if you are eating low carb replace these with finely crushed pork rinds)

4 cloves garlic

1 medium onion, diced

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions: 

First preheat your oven to 425°F. Then mix your breadcrumbs (or pork rinds for you low carbers, I got you fam) with the milk and set aside.

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I know it might look a little gross, but this little concoction is going to help keep these meatballs super moist and delicious! 

Let that just hang out and it will eventually turn into a paste like consistency. Time to sauté your diced onion with the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, we don’t really want to get much color on these onions, just a lite sauté. I cooked mine a tad too long, mainly because I got caught up watching ‘Roseanne’, don’t you dare judge me! Once they are done, take them off the heat and let them cool down a bit.

Now let’s get a big mixing bowl and add the pork and beef to the bowl.

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Mix the beef and pork together until it’s just combined, don’t get wild.  Add the onion and breadcrumb mixture to the meat. 20170225_210951

Beat your eggs well and add them, along with everything else, to the party.

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Mix all those delicious ingredients together thoroughly, again, don’t get wild.  We don’t want to overmix these suckers, cuz nobody likes a tough ass meatball.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it hang out in the refrigerator for about an hour.  We want to give the mixture some time to chill and firm up a bit before we handle it anymore.

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Now that our hour of chill time has passed and we’ve all had a glass or three of wine, let’s get our mixture out of the refrigerator. I like to use a small ice cream type scoop to get the initial shape of the meatball, plus it helps keep the size of the meatballs fairly consistent.  Then I roll or shape the meatballs by hand. Pro tip, keep a small bowl of water near by to keep your hands wet, this will help to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands.

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You want your meatballs to be about the size of a golf ball.  

Place them on a lightly oiled sheet pan and keep a little space between them. Then pop them into your preheated 425° oven for about 20 minutes or until they look like this…

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Now we’re in the home stretch!  Just add these to a pot of tomato sauce (like the one I gave you a recipe for).

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All you have to do now is let these simmer on low for about an hour or hour and a half.  This is going to really help the meatballs get tender and super flavorful.  After that….. you’re done! Time to plate up!

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Man, these things are spectacular! You can put these on some pasta, make a meatball sandwich, or just top them with a little parmesan and parsley and eat them as a meal!  These also freeze extremely well, so make a huge batch and save some for later! Many people boast that their meatballs are “the best!”, I for one refuse to make such a claim (Even though my meatballs ARE indeed the best)!

I hope you give these a try for yourself and let me know how they turned out in the comments below!  Check us out on Facebook (@isbutteracarbblog) and give us a ‘like’! Don’t forget to follow the blog and tell your friends!  Until next time my friends, Ciao!

Pasta e fagioli!

Whew, Oregon, what can I say?  It was a blast!  First, I wanna say thanks to our gracious hosts, Brandy, Worm, Sophie, Shad, Jasmine, and Taylor.  They were so much fun and it was such a pleasure to see them again, cook for them, and spend some quality time together.  Friends and family really are what makes life worth living and I’m beyond blessed to have an abundance of both.

Anyway, let’s move on from the sappy mushy stuff. Brandy and Worm took us for a snow day, or three, to the beautiful and picturesque Mount Bachelor in the Deschutes National Forest.

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Mount Bachelor is one of the largest resorts in the Pacific Northwest, with a skiable area of 3,683 acres! It’s also a stratovolcano, which in my opinion is kinda cool.

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There was SO much snow!  The roads up to the mountain were completely white, at times it was snowing so much you could barely see.

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The tables (pictured above) get cleaned off every day.  So, that’s less than a days worth of snow.

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It was such a fun experience! I can’t wait to go back.  If you ever get the chance, take a trip to Bend, Oregon, you won’t regret it.  They have so many awesome places to eat, breweries with tours and tastings, an awesome distillery with a tasting room, and just so many outdoor activities!  The people there are so nice and welcoming.

Speaking of places to eat, my buddy Worm is the executive chef at this sweet little place in Bend. It’s called “Rockin’ Dave’s Bistro & Backstage Lounge” (661 NE Greenwood Ave, Bend, OR) check em’ out at http://www.rockindaves.com. Man, this place is really something special, such a fun and relaxed environment. They use high quality local ingredients as much as they can and it really shows in Chefs food.

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I got the pastrami sandwich with brussels and a house made pickle, it was unbelievably delicious! They make almost everything on the plate ‘in house’, from the pastrami to the pickles. If you notice the little ramekin with parsley hiding on the back of the plate, that’s a little chef joke between Worm and I, if there is one thing that is the bane of my existence in the food world it’s when there is random parsley scattered around the fucking plate!  It infuriates me haha and he knows it. Anyway, Rockin’ Dave was such a cool guy and was extremely hospitable. He treated us to appetizers and a few (many) drinks, admittedly I was a little drunk and my belly was full upon my departure that night.

We need to move on to the good stuff right?  I know you’re getting hungry by now.  So, one of the days we came off the mountain a huge snow storm was kicking our ass and I decided to cook dinner for everyone.  I thought what would be good on a cold snowy evening?  I decided on Pasta e fagioli! Pasta e fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans” is an Italian-American comfort food (to me at least), it’s like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother, without all the perfume.  It’s such a simple, quick, and delicious dinner….you just can’t go wrong! Let’s get the ball rolling!

Ingredients: 

1 Tablespoon of Olive oil

1 package of sweet Italian sausage (12-16 ounces)

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

1 large rib of celery, diced

3/4 cup of dry macaroni pasta

1/4 cup of tomato paste

4 cups chicken stock, or as needed

3 cups Swiss chard, chopped

1 can of cannellini beans (15 ounce)

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Instructions: 

First let’s brown the sausage in the olive oil. You’re going to want to use medium high heat for this. While it’s browning use your wooden cooking wand to break it up, we don’t want to break it up a ton, so let’s leave it a little chunky.

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While that’s cookin’ away.  Get your onions and celery ready!

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So, once the sausage is browned and happy go ahead and reduce the heat to medium and throw in the celery and onions.  You’re gonna want to cook those onions for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. It will really bring out the sweetness in the veggies.  Next, we’re going to add in our pasta. Put the pasta in dry, I know I know, you thinking ‘what in the hell is he telling me to do?’, but just stay with me here.  Put the dry uncooked pasta in the pan and cook with the sausage for about 2 minutes. By doing this it’s going to infuse the pasta with more flavor, at least in my mind it will and that’s going to be a challenge to disprove haha.

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After that has cooked for the previously stated 2 minutes, it’s time to add the tomato paste.  Stir that in and cook it for 2-3 minutes.  Next add 3 cups of chicken stock, reserve that other cup for the end to see if you need to adjust later. Anyway, add that to the pan, when you do be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all those tasty brown bits that are stuck on the bottom.  Bring heat up to high and bring to a simmer.

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While that’s happening let’s add some seasoning. Add a little salt, but be careful the amount you need depends on the amount that is in the stock you used. So, just do it to taste. Taste EVERYTHING! Add the freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. When it comes to a simmer back the heat down to medium (I used medium but it will be up to you and your stove on what level of heat constitutes a good simmer) and cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. While that’s simmering away let’s get started on these greens!

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They are super easy to prep.  You just rip the green leafy parts off the ribs running down the center.  Then just sorta wad the leaves up, cut across, then chop away until you’re happy with the size.  Place your newly chopped leaves (you did a great job by the way) in a bowl full of cold water.

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You have to wash these thoroughly before you use it to get rid of all the dirt and sand.  So just swish and swirl them around in the water and that’s going to allow all the dirty sandy mess to fall down into the bottom of the bowl. Now back to the stove. You’re going to want to check your liquid level in the sausage and pasta mixture, I added a little bit more to mine (you’re probably going to want to do the same). Then fish out your greens from the bowl and shake off the excess water, add them to your pot and stir them in.

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It’s going to look like you have put way to much in, but trust me they wilt fast. Now it’s time to add our drained and rinsed cannellini beans. I usually always rinse that weird bean juice off my beans.

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Stir those in and check your liquid levels one more time. Just let everything cook and meld together until your pasta is done.  For this dish you aren’t going to want al dente pasta, so keep that in mind. We’re almost done….we’re just two steps away!  We need to taste for seasoning and mine usually always needs a pinch more salt and maybe some pepper.  We also need to turn off the heat and add in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Please, always use freshly grated Parmesan cheese, I better not catch you using that fake shit in a can!  It just won’t work! Use the real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Time to serve it up in a hot bowl with a nice crusty piece of bread and little more grated Parmesan cheese on top!

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Well, there you have it, Pasta e fagioli! This is such a wonderful dish to enjoy on a cold snowy winter evening with friends.  It’s such a stick to your ribs dish that is going to leave you satisfied and warm inside.  I encourage you to give it a try, if you do let me know how it turned out in the comments!  Thanks and until next time, Ciao!