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
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
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 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp freshly grated parmigianno-reggiano cheese
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.