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Apr 24, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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By the Book: Fabio Viviani’s Mom’s Meatballs

August 27th 07:08pm, 2013

 

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For those of you who follow Top Chef, you’re probably already a fan of Fabio Viviani, who appeared in the fifth season and on Top Chef: All Stars. For those of you sad people without cable (like me), the handsome Italian guy eating a cake on the cover of Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, probably doesn’t mean much. Sometimes books by celebrity chefs aren’t actually great cookbooks; they seem to be banking on star power rather than solid content, or they’re so difficult that they seem better suited for a coffee table than the kitchen. However, I can assure you that Viviani’s new book is great.

First, his anecdotes interspersed throughout his 100 family recipes are both funny and charming (particularly the one where he met the pope and tried to knock his hat off). I get why Viviani won Top Chef fan favorite. What really impressed me with the book, though, was his proclivity toward using inexpensive and simple ingredients – Viviani reiterates several times in the book how poor he was growing up. Many of his recipes highlight ways to skimp on cost – like using old wine and cheap cuts of meat – while not skimping on flavor. His recipe for Mom’s Meatballs is a perfect example of this attitude.

I was attracted to this recipe because I’m always a little suspicious when someone claims something is the best, as he did: “This is probably the best meatball you ever had in your life, or perhaps second only to the one your grandma makes.” I also wanted an excuse to try out his recipe for Fabio’s Tomato Sauce, which is an ingredient in many of the dishes in his book.

 

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I doubled the tomato sauce recipe, as Viviani advised, so I could freeze some of the extra for later. I think I have an inkling as to why the sauce tasted so good – there’s a ton of olive oil in it.

 

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As for the meatballs, all the ingredients go in one bowl, which, from a kitchen clean-up perspective, I really appreciated.

 

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His recipe says a pound of ground beef will make eight meatballs, but I rolled the balls smaller. I don’t think it really makes a difference either way.

 

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My grandmas are German, so I have no passed-down, guarded “grandma’s meatballs” to compare these to, but I can safely say these are pretty fantastic. I think the key was cooking them in the tomato sauce over the stove. I find many meatballs become dry from being cooked in the oven, but these were moist and divine. And by cooking them in the sauce, as Viviani writes above his recipe, I don’t think it’s possible to overcook them.

 

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Since the tomato sauce is so rich and tasty, I recommend making extra and serving the meatballs over pasta. Buon appetito!

Fabio’s Mom’s Meatballs
Makes 8 meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
4 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper pepper to taste
2 cups Fabio’s Tomato Sauce (Recipe follows.)
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

• Place all ingredients except the tomato sauce, the parsley and the extra-virgin olive oil in a medium-size bowl and mix thoroughly by hand until they are completely combined and the mixture is uniformly firm.
• Coat your hands in olive oil and form balls slightly bigger than a golf ball.
• Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, then drop the meatballs into the sauce and add enough water to allow the sauce to reduce and simmer but not so much that the sauce is totally liquid.
• Cook about 10 minutes on one side, then turn the meatballs over, add some more water, and cook for another 10 minutes, using a spoon to cover the meatballs with the sauce as they simmer. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
• Serve with chopped parsley, salt and pepper, more Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, of course.

Fabio’s Tomato Sauce with Oil and Garlic
Makes 2 cups

6 cloves garlic
8 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 28-oz. can of whole plum tomatoes (packed only in tomato juice)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
10 basil leaves

• Smash the garlic with the back of a knife. Place the garlic and 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the garlic is golden brown.
• Add the tomatoes and generous pinches of salt and pepper.
• Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce is thick and no longer watery, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn the heat to high. Stir, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
• Cook until the oil turns red, then turn off the heat and add the basil at the very end.

Reprinted with permission from Hyperion Books

What’s your favorite classic recipe to prepare that only your grandma could do better? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Fabio’s Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Chris, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won a copy of Try This at Home by Richard Blais. Chris, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

 

By Julie Cohen

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12 Responses to “By the Book: Fabio Viviani’s Mom’s Meatballs”

  1. Patty Says:
    August 27th, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Pierogies with a wild mushroom gravy.

  2. Amy Wallerstein Says:
    August 27th, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Matzo Ball Chicken Soup

  3. Bubba Durand Says:
    August 28th, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Lemon Meringue Pie

  4. Lauren Says:
    August 28th, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Spaghetti with meatballs. I know, I know, but my grandmother was from Sicily. I really wish I could recreate her recipe but I don’t think it was ever written down. The sauce was smooth, simple, and a little thin, but she simmered pork ribs in it along with the meatballs, which may have had pork as well as beef. I think that was part of the trick.

  5. Ben King Says:
    August 28th, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I would have to say my favorite classic recipe from my grandmother would have to be her stuffed cabbage recipe. She made an amazing stuffed cabbage that I have tried to replicate but it just never tastes as good. By I wish I could go back in time and have that recipe one more time!

  6. Hao Says:
    August 28th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    so one of my favorite recipes is steamed pork belly with preserved mustard greens (or in chinese MeiCai KouRou). it’s a little tedious (multiple days due to wait time) but oh so delicious! you can’t get the same ingredients here so it’s just not quite as good.

  7. Emily Barklage Says:
    September 3rd, 2013 at 10:16 am

    My grandma makes creamed chicken and peas over puff pastry – it’s my favorite

  8. Wendy Guyer Says:
    September 3rd, 2013 at 10:22 am

    apple crisp ~ it was amazing!

  9. Katie Newman Says:
    September 3rd, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I’m so happy to have my grandma Walsh’s reciped for Spice Apple Cake. After all these years it’s still a winner!

  10. Emily Rodenbeck Says:
    September 3rd, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Pumpkin ice cream roll – I could eat the whole “cake” myself in one sitting!

  11. SwissSannetje Says:
    September 3rd, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Maultaschen! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maultaschen

    I do use my grandma’s recipe when I make them, but she never measured any ingredients so it’s hard to recreate it “exactly” the same…

  12. Mary Says:
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Barbequed chicken- actually my Pop (grandfather) made this. Slow bbq’d with a glaze of sauce cut with beer. I keep trying but he always managed to keep the chicken perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of smokiness and char. All day affair! Such a simple prospect but maddeningly difficult to perfect. He was an architect major/engineer so I suspect his homemade oil barrel grill had something to do with it ;)

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