Meatballs & Pasta

meatballs & pasta

My friend E bakes and I cook, so we are trying to get on the ball about catering together. We haven’t worked on any events together yet but a referral later we were sending off our proposal for a casual wedding reception party. According to E the couple already had another proposal from their local Italian restaurant but were looking into other possibilities. Here is the info I received: it was a casual wedding reception in an art gallery for 80 people, the couple was open to any kind of food, maybe looking for something different than the restaurant’s brie with dried fruit marsala reduction, grilled eggplant-ricotta rolls, meatballs in marinara, stuffed mushroom, cheese pesto sun-dried tomato torta, bruschetta.

So I made an hor d’oeuvres menu taking those things into consideration and sent it over to the couple. I didn’t get any questions or requests to add/remove any dishes so seemed like we were set. We held a tasting featuring the dishes and then waited for the answer.

A few days later E got a call saying they weren’t going to have us cater their reception, but instead were going with the other company. Arse… First, they told us they were open to anything. Second, they didn’t read the menu before they came up for the tasting. Third, doing the tasting was a waste of time and completely pointless since the couple didn’t even read the menu. I assumed that they were pleased with it which was why we were even doing the tasting in the first place.

It just came down to the fact that they didn’t like my food. I kind of got that feeling when they were eating it. But I guess it’s just a matter of preference. I like serrano ham, cabrales cheese, homemade rosemary-poppyseed shortbread, and goat cheese mousse for my cocktail parties. I don’t expect other people to like what I like but I also don’t like wasting my time making food that someone is predisposed to dislike or prefer less.

But… the Italian restaurant also proposed “Lavash rolls filled with turkey and cranberry!” Um, first off that’s not Italian and you can pick that up at Costco. Shit, I got rejected over Costco-esque roll-ups!

And you know I adore Italian food. I love poring over Marcella’s Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It’s just that I wouldn’t serve meatballs in marinara sauce at a wedding reception (unless it was served like open mini sliders on top of buttered and toasted brioche rounds, with buffalo mozzarella melted over it, garnished with a fried basil leaf and a grating of parmigiano reggiano). And I will never like getting rejected over lavash turkey roll-ups. What the hell. I feel sorry for my tastebuds and tummy everytime my work gets that for some lunch event. And my work only gets em because they have a budget of like $2/pp. I felt kind of bad over the whole thing but whatevers. Not to be so cliche, but you win some, lose some.

So I decided this would be a good time to say screw that and cook myself something delicious. Definitely something warm, comforting, and satisfying – Meatballs & Pasta. Hey, I told you I love Italian food! And I definitely love meatballs. The quiet kitchen, the repetitive peaceful movements of my knife against the cutting board, the utterly intoxicating aroma of Italian food wafting through my kitchen can make any day better.

Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil & Chopped Vegetables and Meatballs and Tomatoes

(Marcella Hazan)

The carrot and celery in this sauce are put in a crudo, which means without the usual separate and preliminary sauteeing procedure, along with the tomatoes. The sweetness of carrot and the fragrance of celery contribute depth to the fresh tomato flavor of the sauce.

Recommended pasta – This is an all-purpose sauce for most cuts of factory-made pasta, particularly spaghettini and penne.

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, or 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

2/3 cup chopped carrots

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped onion


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta


(Marcella Hazan)

A slice of good-quality white bread

1/3 cup milk

1 pound ground beef, preferably chuck

1 tbsp onion chopped very fine

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 egg

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp freshly grated parmigianno-reggiano cheese

Whole nutmeg


Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill

Here is my quick and dirty mash-up adapted version of Marcella’s instructions for the two recipes above:

Process the canned roma tomatoes in the food mill or food processor if you don’t have a mill. [Thanks Hannah for the food mill!] Simmer the tomato puree and vegetables on low 30 minutes without the lid according to Marcella’s instructions.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs. Pour the milk over the crustless bread in a bowl and microwave it for a minutes or so. Then put all the ingredients in a bowl and mush it up. But don’t mush it up too much or the meatballs will be tough. I used pecorino romano instead of parmigianno reggiano because that’s what I had at home. Marcella says “Gently knead the mixture with your hands without squeezing it”. Roll them into about 1 in balls.

Marcella rolls her meatballs in dry breadcrumb and fries in in olive oil. Me: Drizzle or brush a little bit of oil on the meatballs then broil the little suckers for until they were browned all over. (Check yours every few minutes bc your broiler could be hotter/cooler than mine). Now add all of them into the simmering tomato sauce and continue to simmer them together lid on for about 10 more minutes.

Boil a large pot of water; when boiling salt generouly with kosher salt and place pasta in. When the pasta is almost done, fish out the meatballs from the tomato. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce and toss gently as to not make a total mess of the kitchen in the color tomato. Plate the pasta with a few meatballs. A grate of pecorino romano and sprinkle of parsley and dinner is ready.


10 thoughts on “Meatballs & Pasta

  1. and it’s a bargain too cuz it comes with soda. i got nuthin against their 1.50 hotdogs – used to eat it all the time in college. but i got quarter pound niman ranch beef franks sitting in my fridge that will be made into a melt along with some hp sauce and manchego. and a bottle of sparkling water waiting to be flavored with tangelo zest. maybe more expensive but a better deal imo!

  2. I’m absolutely sure that your Italian food not only tastes better, but it also looks much more appetizing. I figure, in the end, it’s their loss. Their the ones who will be serving lavash rolls at their wedding — I swear, that’s a crime in some states! : )

  3. this looks fantastic! i’ve been having all sort of conversations with people about italian food recently – i think i’m going to have to go find some for dinner tonight now. (i’d try your recipe, but that would require a trip to the market – maybe another day.) as for the catering job, those people are fools not to have hired you, but i guess they also prefer turkey wraps to the amazingness you were offering. There’s just no accounting for some people’s taste(buds).

  4. *patpat* Don’t worry. Weddings are one of the worst catering gigs on the face of the planet. There’s real money to be made there, but a lot of the clients are assholes. I used to work for a really high-end French bakery in high school, and wedding cake tastings/deliveries were the worst. People seem to think that just because it involved *their* special day, they can treat *you* with disrespect. I don’t imagine the producers of the Bridezilla reality TV show needed to look very hard for material when they were filming.

    This is one of the reasons I’ve taken care to treat off the vendors we’ve contracted for our wedding with courtesy and respect.

  5. hi santos,
    the restaurant isn’t even in LA. πŸ™‚ maybe it’s good, who knows. i’ve read some good reviews. but perhaps the reviewers are fans of lavash turkey cranberry wraps.

    thanks yoonyang,
    i’m no expertise italian cook, but at least i know what Italian food isn’t. that would be turkey wraps to be exact.

    hi hannah,
    foods with high accidental stainability is a big no-no at weddings! at least they’re not serving spaghetti with it.

    thanks sue,
    i heart italian food – such no fuss homey goodness. what you end up grabbing for dinner?

    hi chubby panda,
    yeah i totally agree with you. weddings equal quantity & mediocre food to please everyone. sigh, i would love to just concentrate on small intimate gigs even though it’ll be little money. lol, “bridezilla” is such a funny name. anyways, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! πŸ˜€

  6. Pingback: Columbus Foodie » Blog Archive » March 2007 Roundup

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