We recently made a batch of Josh’s Uncle Jim’s meatballs, substituting shredded Beekman 1802 Blaak cheese for parmesan. It was delicious, and we’re sure Uncle Jim wouldn’t mind since he never made any of his delicious recipes the same way twice. Josh credits his Uncle Jim in the forward of The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook as the person who taught him that cooking can be enjoyed as much for the process as for the result.
Right before Josh went off to college, his mom sat him down with her recipe box and some blank index cards. “Write down all of your favorite recipes,” she said, “so if you miss home, you can make something to remind you of it.” One of the first recipes he transcribed was Uncle Jim’s “Italian Meat Balls,” and we still use that same, stained, recipe card to make them today:
This might not be a terribly complex meatball recipe, but it’s the best one we’ve ever tried. The secret, we feel, is the inclusion of bread. Many Italian home cooks will say that bread was used as an “extender” for when meat was too expensive. But we think the bread plays an essential role. It absorbs the juice and fat from the meat that would normally drain off while baking, keeping the finished meatball from drying out and getting tough. The other secret is to not cook the meatballs all the way through. Finish cooking the meatballs in the sauce. That way flavors from the sauce will be absorbed into the meatballs, and juices from the meatballs will be absorbed into the sauce.
Uncle Jim’s Italian Meatballs
4 slices white bread, preferable stale, cut into 1/2 cubes
1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 lb pork, 1/2 lb beef)
1/2 cup Romano cheese (or parmesan, or substituted Blaak.)
2 tablespoons dried parsley, or 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Approx 2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon oregano
More plain salt to taste, if necessary
Ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and thoroughly mix with your bare hands. Roll individual meatballs between your palms (approximately 2-3 inches in diameter) and arrange on a baking sheet with a rim. Bake meatballs for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until outsides are thoroughly browned. Transfer desired quantity to simmering sauce and cook at least another half hour until meat is cooked all the way through. (Meatballs may also be frozen for later use.)