Meatballs: Installment #1

Nigella Lawson’s Meatballs

“Meatballs.” Just the word conjures up feelings of culinary comfort for me; and when these tasty morsels are paired with pasta, I’m transported back to my childhood where they often showed up as part of a Sunday dinner. I do know that some Italian-food traditionalists may scoff at these meaty orbs coated with tomato sauce, dismissing them as Italian-American fare. Indeed, I recall having dinner with a friend from Italy who looked at me in disbelief when I ordered one as an appetizer in a well know Chicago restaurant. “Stai scherzando,” (You must be joking) he said. I trust the satisfied expression on my face after I consumed the last tasty morsel proved him wrong.

This post will be the first in a series devoted to meatballs that I plan to publish periodically over the next few months. The recipe, “Pasta with Meatballs” comes from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook Nigella Bites and can also be found online. (I used the latter.) I chose it for a number of reasons: I found some ground pork in the back of the freezer; there was no frying or roasting involved; and it yielded 30 meatballs slightly larger than a cherry tomato. Another motivation came from finding her online version of the recipe, which substituted semolina for breadcrumbs as well as jarred passata for canned tomatoes.

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Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Growing up as a first-generation Italian, I regarded food not only as nourishment but also as a link to the flavors and traditions of my forebears.  In fact, that strong ethnic bond has motivated much of my cooking over the last 50 years. And while the cuisines of other countries have always intrigued me, none has inspired me more than Italian. Whenever I’m in the kitchen, memories of my Sicilian mother or Neapolitan aunt at the stove or of my family around the dinner table come to mind.

Recently, I had one such recollection while I was preparing the pasta dish that is the subject of this post, Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta. As a child, I hated anchovies. The way they looked—dark, shriveled, when packed in salt or rusty and slimy when tinned in oil— totally turned me off even before tasting them. “Yuck,” I would say out of earshot.  But I was forced to eat or, at least, try them every time they appeared in one of the dishes on the table. When I would resist, my father would say: “They’re an acquired taste; you’ll eventually grow to like them.” It may have taken some time before the acquisition, but, as usual, my father was correct.

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Penne With Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

Penne with Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

I had originally planned to begin a series of posts focusing on retro dishes from the 50s and 60s. That plan found its way to the back burner, however, when my brother suggested a recipe for penne with spicy Calabrian shrimp from Giada De Laurentiis’s latest cookbook, Eat Better, Feel Better.
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Orecchiette with Salmon, Arugula, and Artichokes

Orecchiette with Salmon, Arugula, and Artichokes

Once again, the recipe highlighted in today’s post was suggested by my better half, who informed me that we had a haul of salmon in our overcrowded freezer that needed to be pared down. The recipe, “Orecchiette with Salmon, Arugula and Artichokes” is by cookbook author Grace Parisi and comes from the December 2012 issue of Food and Wine.

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Sausage-Pork-and Ricotta Meatballs

Sausage-Pork-and-Ricotta Meatballs

Valentine’s Day 2021, our latest holiday during this pandemic, was possibly our happiest. Perhaps, the mood swing could be contributed to our having secured our first shots of the vaccine a week ago or even to the beautiful two dozen roses that were delivered to our door that morning. But while those events may have played a part, I’d have to say my husband’s suggestion for our Valentine’s dinner deserves most of the credit.

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Creamy Mushroom & Spinach Orzo

Creamy Mushroom & Spinach Orzo

My Firefox browser’s homepage features a news-story service called “Pocket.” Throughout the day, it displays a selection of “curated” articles about a wide array of subjects in a 3×7 grid of colorful, eye-catching photos captioned with inviting summaries of the content to which they are linked.

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Pasta with Cauliflower

Pasta with Cauliflower

One of the best moments in blogging is finding a great recipe on a friend’s website that you just have to make because it sounds and looks so good. Of course, trusting that colleague’s taste is also a determining factor for choosing it.

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Tomato-Basil Shrimp with Orzo

Tomato-Basil Shrimp with Orzo

Before the internet, as some of you may recall, food companies often added recipes to their packaging that would suggest ways to use their products. Of course, the limited space on the package restricted these recipes to relatively simple dishes, but I still remember my mother cutting them out and adding them to her hand-painted tin recipe box, yet another culinary icon of a bygone era.

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Pasta with Spiced Butternut Squash

Pasta with Spiced Butternut Squash

“Meanwhile.” The word makes me cringe whenever I read it in a recipe. As you probably know, it typically implies multi-tasking—not one of my strengths. So when I read today’s recipe, one suggested by my better half, and “meanwhile” appeared twice, you can imagine how I felt.

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Shrimp & Spaghetti

Shrimp & Spaghetti

During these seemingly amalgamating days of self-quarantine (a.k.a. lock-up), I’m constantly finding food that’s either going bad or needs using up. I attribute this regrettable position to buying more than we need out of fear of running out or of an item’s becoming unavailable. Something we never did when, in happier days, we food shopped almost daily.

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