Mama's Meatballs

I had the good fortune to have a mother and grandmother who were superb Italian-American home cooks. At their tables, I learned to make homemade pasta, stews, soups, cakes, pies and pastries, savory entrées such as roasted chicken Italiano, veal and eggplant Parmigiana, and, of course, meatballs.  I remember dinners on Thursdays and Sundays, with grandfather, mom and dad, aunts and uncles seated around the table. My grandmother served an amazing meal of chicken, home made ravioli, meatloaf, meatballs, roasted potatoes, and spaghetti aglio e oliio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil). It was amazing enough that she did this alone (I was often by her side, watching faithfully), but she did it every week, twice a week and still managed to help my grandfather with his home-based business, wash and iron clothes for her two sons, and look after me.  My mother learned at her hand, and she was always cooking up something wonderful in our own kitchen, putting her own spin on age-old favorites.

In their honor, I present "Mama's Meatballs." The "secret" of this recipe is the right balance of meat to breadcrumbs, and the correct seasonings. I've changed the cooking method, as it eliminates unhealthy frying and also messy cleanup. After you've cooked the meatballs, all you need to do is roll up the aluminum foil and toss it in the trash. Your cookie sheets will be clean and there will be no frying pans to scrape clean!

I hope you will try this recipe, and enjoy it with your family and friends.


2 lbs. ground chuck
1-1/4 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Garlic and onion salt to taste -- about 1/4 tsp. each
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup whole milk, if desired
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, if desired


1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
2. Prepare two cookie sheets with heavy-duty aluminum foil, brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
3. Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Do not overmix or meatballs will be tough and chewy.

4. Using a cookie scoop, portion out meatballs (ensures all meatballs are the same size and cook evenly).

5. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and brown and crispy on outside.

6. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, then dunk them into your favorite Italian gravy. Serve with pasta, or on crusty rolls for a special Italian hero, topped with melted mozzarella!

Broccoli Rabé with Cavatelli

Spectacular broccoli rabé, sometimes misunderstood, always wonderful, and so easy to prepare and healthy to eat. This recipe will tell you how to get the bitterness out, and join it to creamy cavatelli for a flavor-punched side or main dish.


1 large head broccoli rabé, trimmed, rinsed in cold water, and drained well
4-6 large cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 lb. fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
1/4 c. grated imported Parmigianno Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


1, Boil a large pot of water big enough to hold the entire head of broccoli rabé.
2. Immerse the broccoli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. (This will reduce and/or remove bitterness from the stems.)
3. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water.
4. Remove broccoli from boiling water, immerse immediately in ice water to preserve bright color and stop cooking.
5. Drain broccoli well, pat dry with paper towel to remove moisture.
6. In a large sauté pan, add olive oil, butter, broccoli and garlic. Sauté until wilted and shrunk, to desired tenderness. Remove from heat.
7. Boil cavatelli according to package directions, drain well and mix with prepared broccoli and garlic.
8. Season to taste with salt and pepper, top with shaved or grated cheese.

Buon appetito!