My seven-year-old has been more than a little excited about the new 3-D movie titled “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs“. That is probably why I subconsciously chose meatballs with marinara as a topic for the “Cosmic Cooking Class” I will be teaching to the MOPS* group today at East Pointe Baptist Church (and yes, you can come, but it is THIS morning September 22, so get ready now!) I really thought that “Meatball Meteorites” sounded like fun, especially since they are served with “Martian Marinara” (if you’ve tried the recipe I shared called “Frisco Marinara”, it is the same awesome sauce).
“Together on Planet Mom” is the theme for MOPS this year, so when I was asked to help with kid friendly cosmic dishes, I was happy to give a few of my favorite kid pleasers new ‘theme appropriate’ names, and my kids didn’t complain.
As you struggle to find ways to help your own kids make better decisions in how to feed themselves, consider renaming a few dishes to make them more appealing. I can remember that with my brother, broccoli was always referred to as “little trees”, and as he impersonated a giant they magically disappeared. With my son Max, an Omelet with spinach and ham is Green Eggs and Ham, Seaweed salad (which I love and he surprisingly will fight me for) is “Sponge Bob Salad”. And sautéed spinach is fondly referred to as “Popeye’s secret weapon”.
To be honest, meatballs are pretty popular by any name. I do not recall ever watching my mother make them, but I do remember some bags of them in our freezer when I was older. Initially the thought of making meatballs seemed a little intimidating, especially since I’m not the least bit Italian. After considerable research and interviewing a few friends who cook a lot of Italian food, this is the recipe that I developed.
The addition of buttermilk and bread as a paste (or panada as it is called in Italy) is the secret to my recipe and I find that this helps keep the meatballs moist and tender. Interestingly enough, after trying several other recipes, I told one of my friends about my results with the panada and she remembered that her Italian grandmother always used that technique too.
There are many different opinions on how to cook the meatballs once assembled. I find baking them to be FAR easier than the other options have I tried. Yes, you can also substitute other varieties of ground meat for the ground chuck; but this was my family’s favorite option. By making your own meatballs you will know exactly what you are feeding your family and avoid any processed ingredients added to prolong shelf life for many of the pre-assembled options.
*“MOPS, or Mothers of Preschoolers, is an organization that helps moms through relationships established in the context of local groups that provide a caring atmosphere for today’s mother of young children. MOPS also encourages and supports moms through resources such as books, their website and the MOPS International Membership.” You can find more information at www.mops.org.
These are much easier to make than many people realize. They can be used for many recipes (not just spaghetti) and freeze well after baking.
2 slices (larger size) sandwich bread
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
3 TBSP minced fresh green onion
1 TBSP minced fresh rosemary
1 large egg yolk
2 large cloves pressed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground chuck
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking pan with foil. Place an oven proof cooling rack on top of the foil lined pan.
Tear bread into small pieces. Add the buttermilk and mash with a fork to form a paste. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the beef. Add the beef and use your hands to mix everything together. Shape into balls and place on prepared pan. Bake until meatballs are cooked through the center — about 25 minutes (depending on size).
Add cooked meatballs to sauce of choice and enjoy. If you are adding them to a non-Italian sauce, you can omit the garlic.
Yield: about 20 small to medium meatballs
Martian Marinara Sauce
This recipe actually came from my friends the Friscos. Nana Frisco immigrated to the United States from Italy with this tasty sauce recipe. It is so delicious that your family is sure to love it.
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
1 full tomato paste can of water
1/4 cup sugar
6 leaves of fresh sweet basil
1/2 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the cloves of garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Then add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow it to cook until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Serve with pasta, on pizza, or with breadsticks.
Yield: About 4 servings — but it is so good leftover that you should double the recipe.