A true heirloom recipe always comes with memories attached, and this is what you are really handing down to your children and grandchildren.
This was my great grandmother’s recipe for meatballs, which makes me the fourth generation user. Although I knew great-grandma Sylvia, (she died at the ripe old age of 94!) by the time I was born, she was well past meatball making days. So the recipe was taught to me by my grandmother, Harriet, who this week celebrates her own 90th birthday. This is the oldest recipe of my own family’s that I own, and for me, it will always be associated with summer at my grandmother’s house. It was one of my favorites, and the superior taste has a lot to do with the choice of meat and slow cooking directly in the sauce.
Most modern meatballs are made with hamburger, which is extremely high in fat and made with scraps, and have to be pre-browned in a pan before boiling to get rid of some of the extra grease. You may opt to not use veal, as sometimes both of my grandmas did, but make sure that you request sirloin from the butcher. Being able to cook it from raw in the sauce makes a world of difference.
She always made it in small batches, so you will have to scale up accordingly. The meatballs are always better as leftovers the next day, but they seldom last that long!
(Serves 3-4 people)
- 1/2 lb ground sirloin (no fatty hamburger grind)
- 1/2 lb ground veal*
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup onion flakes
- 1/3 cup matzo meal
- a splash of milk
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- A little pepper, Italian seasoning, and salt to taste (we never used extra salt)
- 2 cups good tomato sauce with veggies in it
- a spoonful or two of uncooked rice (to absorb moisture)
*If you don’t use veal, use 1 whole pound of ground sirloin.
In a large pot, heat up the sauce slowly. While the sauce is heating, mix the meatball ingredients until they cohere in a nice, playdough style. If the mixture is too loose, add more matzo. If too chunky, add more milk.
Shape into balls, about 10-12 medium size. Drop one at a time into the sauce, cover, and cook at a simmer until cooked through (about 30 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Serve with rice or pasta.