Tag Archives: Italian Sunday Dinner

A pot of meatballs cooking in tomato sauce on the stove. The NIAF wooden spoon with the slogan "Make Sunday Italian Again" is in the pot

Italian Meatballs: A Tribute to our Italian Mothers

Italian Meatballs: A Tribute to our Italian Mothers

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Meatballs A Tribute to our Italian Mothers

Everyone’s Italian-American mom makes her own version of Italian Meatballs. And they are all the best!

Try Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs for YOUR Sunday Family Dinner! 

Italian Meatballs: A tribute to our Italian Mothers is a reprint from a blog originally posted on October 10, 2018, titled: “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs.”

I’ve since learned a about vegetarian meatballs from the blog post “Polpette di Melanzana (Eggplant Balls)” by Luca Marchiori, who mentions in his blog that it is traditional to make meatballs from eggplant in Puglia. He also notes that in Italy, “meat is only one of many ingredients Italians use to make polpette. In Rome, for example, there is a restaurant called Polpetta which serves them made from a variety of ingredients, many of them vegetarian. In fact their menu is topped by the hashtag #tuttoèpolpettabile (#youcanmakepolpettefromanything).”  

Also…

I’ve since added Instagram to my social media, and have added a video from Instagram to this post so you can see me cooking in real-time!  I hope you like it!

For more recipes like these, as well as French recipes, follow me on my Instagram posts at Conversationalitalian.french.

View this post on Instagram

My Mom’s Italian meatballs, from my family to yours. Surprise your mom and make meatballs for her this Mothers Day! If you want the answer to how the Italian polpetta came about visit my latest blog on www.blog.learntravelitalian.com. For the meatballs: 1 medium onion, chopped finely, 1 clove garlic, chopped, 2 Tbsps olive oil, plus more for frying, 1 lb. 80% lean ground beef, 1 egg, 3/4 c Progresso brand Italian bread crumbs, 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped finely, salt and pepper. For Southern Italian tomato sauce: 1 medium onion, chopped finely, 1 clove garlic chopped sautéed in 2Tb olive oil, 1 can (28 oz.) Contadina tomato puree, 1 can Contadina brand tomato paste, and also fill each can with water and add water, /4 cup dried paesley or fresh chopped parsley, 1 Tb. Dried basil or 2 Tbs. torn fresh basil, salt to taste. Buon appetito! #osnap @niaf @sons_of_italy @osia_su @chicagolanditalians #meatballs #italiancookingadventures #italiancookingclasses #italianfood #italianfoodbloggers #italianfoodlover #italianfoods #italiandinner #tomatosauce #tomatopuree @contadina #lamiacucina #italianmeatballs #italianmeatball #homemademeatballs #meatballrecipe #meatballrecipes #meatballrecipetasty #italianamerican #italianamericanfood @mio_modernitalian

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And now… the original story!

The blog title, “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs,” came about during an event I attended with the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals (CIAP) this fall.  The executive director, Salvatore Sciacca and his group feature Italian-American “cooking competition” events several times a year, and I have to say, they are always a delicious and  entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family.

So, when I was invited to be one of the home cooks for this fall’s event,  The First Annual Meatball Fest,  I quickly checked my calendar, noted I was available, and signed up for another Sunday afternoon of Italian-American food and fun.

Making Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

I had learned  my family recipe for Italian meatballs from my Sicilian-American mother and grandmother long ago, and have been preparing meatballs  for my own family for Italian Sunday dinners for about 20 years now.  I was happy to share my family’s recipe with other families at the event, and also looking forward to tasting what the other home cooks had to offer.

Growing up in an Italian-American household as I did, I really did not have to  do anything special to prepare for the  Italian meatball event held by the CIAP group – at least,
I thought I didn’t have to do anything special !

As it turned out, though, after hearing the other home cooks talk about their method for making meatballs,  I came home curious about the origins of this very common Italian-American dish and ended up doing a bit of research after the event!

I decided to write a blog  to share my experiences that day and what I have been able to learn about  the evolution of the many different styles of meatballs that are loved here in America today.  And of, course, my family’s Italian-American recipe and tips I found from one of my favorite “go-to” Italian cook  books, Ada Boni’s  Italian Regional Cooking (translated from Italian into English by the International Culinary Society, New York ©1969will be included in the blog.

I’d love to hear how YOUR family makes Italian meatballs – leave a comment if you wish at the end of the blog! Buon appetito! – Kathryn Occhipinti

 


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How to Make “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”

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Let’s get back to the story of the day I was a home cook for  The First Annual Meatball Fest,  held by CIAP.

The morning of the CIAP event, I rummaged around the  basement to find my trusty crock pot, rinsed it off, and set a pot of tomato sauce to cook on the stove.  I set a large bowl on the counter and followed the same routine as I have done many times before for my family: put  ground beef  and all other ingredients into the large bowl, mix gently, and  roll into balls.

Meatball ingredients ready to mix
Italian meatball ingredients ready to mix
Italian meatball ready to fry
One Italian meatball ready to fry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am from the  “Italian Mom’s Cooking School” that fries, rather than bakes meatballs to brown them. ( Sorry, I hope I haven’t offended anyone – I know there is a BIG debate about this in the Italian-American community, but I think browning dries out the meatballs and is better left to restaurants making large batches of meatballs at one time.)

I browned my meatballs in olive oil carefully, turning each with tongs to get them browned on all sides.

 

Fry Italian meatballs in olive oil
Italian meatballs frying in olive oil
Italian meatballs turned in olive oil
Turn Italian meatballs gently to brown all sides evenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the meatballs had browned, I added them gently to the simmering pot of tomato sauce on the stove to finish cooking.

I was taught to always stir my tomato sauce with a wooden spoon, and have a small collection of wooden spoons – some with long  handles, some with short handles;  some I save just for sauteing onions and garlic, others for “non-onion” savory or sweet dishes – but recently have been using my favorite  wooden spoon for my tomato sauce, which I bought as a part of a fundraiser for the National Italian American Foundation.

The NIAF recently started a “Make Sunday Italian Again” campaign, which I love, as it not only promotes Sunday time together with family, but also  raises money for their scholarship program by selling these “Nonna spoons” that have the slogan “Make Sunday Italian Again” engraved on the wooden handle.  Check out the NIAF website, if you like, after you finish reading this blog, of course!

Tomato sauce with Italian Meatballs
Italian meatballs cooking in tomato sauce

 

After about 30 minutes,  the meatballs had finished cooking and the sauce had a nice, meaty taste.  I adjusted the salt and pepper, put all into the crock pot and left to join the event.

When I arrived at the event, with my tried and true  “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”, I learned that I was one of 10 different contributors to the dinner!  I named my meatballs “Mom’s Best”,  because it seems to me that every Italian mother’s meatballs are loved and considered the best by her family!

CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest September 2018 attended by author Kathryn Occhipinti
Author/Blogger Kathryn Occhipinti at the CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest, September 2018

I was happy to see Italian-American home cooks of all ages, and both men and women contributed their meatballs for the event. There were two long tables of meatballs and a long line formed as everyone tried to taste them all.

CIAP 1st Annual Meatball FestEnjoying Italian meatballs at the CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest

At first, I had thought this would be a competition, but as it turned out, just as I had suspected, although all the meatballs were made with different ingredients, EVERYONE’s meatballs were delicious, and in the end, no vote was taken!

CIAP Mom's Best Italian Meatballs
Italian Meatballs to sample
CIAP Meatball Fest
More Italian Meatballs

 

Even more Italian meatballs
Even more Italian meatballs!

 

Below is a picture of those who participated, holding signs with the names of the type of meatballs they contributed. (I am in the back row and the Executive Director, Salvatore Sciacca, is just to my left.)

CIAP Italian meatball home cooks
Italian home cooks holding signs of the names of their meatballs at CIAP’s 1st Italian Meatball Fest

Read on for the recipe that I used to make my “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”.  Additional tips I learned from reading about meatballs are given in green italic lettering.  As a bonus, I am including my family’s recipe for basic Italian tomato sauce.  For tips on making Italian tomato sauce, please visit my blog Braciole – Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner.   Of course,  your own favorite tomato sauce will be fine as well!

But don’t stop after reading the first recipe, because when I went home I did a bit of research in Ada Boni’s cook book and discovered more tips on making “the best” meatballs in different styles that you may want to try yourself!

 


Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs 

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil +more for frying
1 lb. ground beef (80% lean best)
1 egg
3/4 cup Progresso brand Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
Salt and Pepper to taste.

This recipe will serve 4 people; it can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd!

Coat a small frying pan lightly with some olive oil  and add the chopped onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onions and garlic have softened and given their flavor to the olive oil.

(I find that sauteing the onions and garlic gives both a nice mellow taste, and I would recommend not skipping this step.  In fact, when my  daughter was young, she insisted that she didn’t like onions,  so I would remove the onions after competing this step and she never caught on to my trick!)

Put the sauteed onions and garlic, with the olive oil, into a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients: 2 additional tablespoons of olive oil,  ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs and parsley.

Sprinkle with salt and a grind of fresh pepper  to taste (some people like more pepper, others less).

Mix gently with your hands, careful not to work the meat too much or this may make the meatballs tough!

Adjust amount of breadcrumbs as needed – more if you more, less to make a more  “meaty” meatball.  If too dry, add a few drops more of olive oil.

(What I learned from researching meatballs – moisten the breadcrumbs in a bit of milk to make for a more tender meatball. The milk should be heated gently on the stove before adding the bread.  When all milk is absorbed, mash into a pulp with a fork.)

When the meatball mixture consistency is to your liking, pull a bit of the meat mixture off and roll into a ball to make a meatball.  Size of the meatballs is to taste, but of course the larger meatballs will need to finish cooking longer in the tomato sauce.

Set a frying pan coated with olive oil over medium-high heat.

Place the newly rolled meatballs gently into the frying pan. Fry on medium high heat (adjusting as necessary during the frying time), turning each with tongs so all sides become browned.

(What I learned from researching meatballs – roll each in a bit of flour or plain bread crumbs to aid browning and help the meatballs hold together during frying.)

After the meatballs have browned, immediately remove them with tongs and gently place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce (recipe below) to finish cooking.

Serve with spaghetti for the Italian-American presentation, or continue on to the following Italian recipes for other serving ideas.

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Southern Italian Tomato Sauce  

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 oz.) Contadina brand tomato puree or chopped tomatoes
1 can Contadina brand tomato paste
1/4 cup dried parsley or chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon dried basil or 2 Tablespoons torn fresh basil
1 Tablespoon of salt or to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and saute the onions and garlic with a wooden spoon until softened.

Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, parsley, and basil to the same pot.

Add 2 cups of water.

Cover, bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer on medium-low heat with the lid partially covering the pot, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for at least 1 hour, so the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Cook for at least 1 hour; at least 1.5 hours if adding meat to the sauce. (Brown any meat in a separate skillet before adding it.)

Add additional water if the sauce becomes too thick, or cook for additional time with the lid of the pot off if the sauce becomes too thin.

 


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How to Make Italian Meatballs – My research…

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Ada Boni,  (1881 – 1973) the author of  one of my favorite Italian cook books, Italian Regional Cooking, was a well-loved Italian author and food writer.  According to the back flap of the edition of my book, Ada Boni is known throughout Italy as the author of the classic bestselling cook book, Il Talismano della Felicità.

Boni worked as a magazine editor in Italy.  This book is a collection of the series of food articles about regional Italian cooking that was originally written for the Italian monthly magazine “Arianna”.  The magazine articles cataloged in depth recipes for the entire range of food served in the 14 major regions of Italy, long before the importance of regional cooking was understood here in America.  Boni was and still is well-known for the authenticity and variety of her recipes.

The book  Italian Regional Cooking is beautifully illustrated, with a spectacular photo montage of each Italian region to be covered at the beginning of each chapter that provides a backdrop for Italian tables laden with dishes from appetizer to dessert that evoke a special family gathering.  (There are no images for each individual recipe, however).  Although I have an edition from 1969 translated into English, the book is still listed on Amazon today.  I found this book about 30 years ago in a book store in California and my cover is tattered by now!

Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni
The book cover from “Italian Regional Cooking” by Ada Boni

When I wanted to research Italian meatballs, I searched this cook book in particular for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted to discover if the way Italian-Americans now make meatballs differs significantly from how an Italian in southern Italy makes meatballs.  Second, I wanted to see if I could figure out the origins of the meatballs I make today.

 

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The Ingredients in Sicilian Meatballs

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In answer to my first question – do we make meatballs differently over here than they do in Italy, I searched  the chapter in Italian Regional Cooking that lists the recipes for Sicily.  I was pretty certain when I started my search that my family’s recipe was authentic, as it has been handed down from my grandmother, who spent her first 22 years in Sicily, and as the oldest child had been helping her mother with the household cooking since she was a young girl.

It turns out that the ingredients in Ada Boni’s  Sicilian“Polpette di Maiale con Pitaggio” are almost identical to my family’s meatballs.  “Polpette”* is the Italian word for what we call “meatballs” in America, but the translation given is, “Pork Rissoles with Vegetables.”

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The meat used for the meatball recipe from Sicily is pork, rather than beef, which of course would be more easy to come by in Sicily.  If I have ground pork or ground turkey on hand, I occasionally will use this meat to “lighten up” the meatballs.  The CIAP cooks used a variety of different meats (see about Neapolitan meatballs below).  The meatballs were rolled in a bit of flour before frying, which is an idea I will use from now on.

Instead of breadcrumbs, the recommendation is to soften the “pith of a small roll” with milk and “squeeze it dry.”  Several of the home cooks at the CIAP event mentioned using this method instead of  bread crumbs, and I will have to try this on my next attempt at making meatballs.   And, of course,  the Progresso brand of breadcrumbs is an American invention, so here is how we changed the meatball over in America for sure!

Other than that, the ingredients listed  for Sicilian Polpette were about the same as the meatballs I had learned to make.  The onion my family puts into meatballs was left out, but  included were garlic, fresh parsley, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and a bit of flour to coat the meatballs before frying. The flour is another good tip!  Most of the CIAP cooks included these ingredients.

How to serve Sicilian meatballs: Suggested  serving was with sauteed artichokes (with chokes removed), green peas and fava beans in the same oil used for frying the meatballs.

I have not seen meatballs served this way, but plan on trying this suggestion, which sounds good  since true Italian meatballs  (I am told, but am not quite convinced) should served with Italian bread, rather than pasta.

 

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The Ingredients in Neapolitan Meatballs

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When I searched the chapter in Italian Regional Cooking  that lists the recipes for Napes-Capagna, I discovered “Polpette di Carne”, translated into “Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Neapolitan Style.” 

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The meat used for the meatball recipe from the Naples region is beef, which is probably the most common meat used in America today, although the CIAP cooks used ground pork and a mixture of been and pork as well.  One cook even made vegetarian meatballs of her own invention using zucchini flowers (Salvatore’s mother) and I have to say, they were delicious. Again, the meatballs were rolled in a bit of flour before frying.

Breadcrumbs were used in the Neapolitan recipe, of course grated from stale Italian bread,  and first moistened with a little milk.  This seems like a good idea to me, and I am going to include this tip from now on when I make meatballs.

The remaining ingredients listed  for Neapolitan Polpette differed significantly from the meatballs we see most frequently in America today in that they called for yellow raisins, pine nuts, and a bit of lard.  Onions were again left out. The remaining ingredients of garlic, parsley, eggs, and Parmesan cheese were the same basic ingredients given in the Sicilian recipe.

I tried the Neapolitan style meatballs one night for dinner (you might notice some pine nuts in the  images of my mixing bowl from the first section of the blog!), warning my family that they would taste sweeter than our usual meatball.  I have to say the addition of milk and a bit of lard made them the most tender meatballs I have ever had!

But it seems like Americans have lost their taste for a “sweet” meatball, however, and it was a consensus at the CIAP dinner that “no one” here in America used raisins anymore.

How to serve Neapolitan meatballs: Suggested  serving was with tomato sauce, and a recipe for simple tomato sauce was provided, as noted in the title for the recipe.

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How to Make Italian Meatballs – My conclusions…

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It seems to me that there are as many ways to make and serve Italian meatballs as there are home cooks to make them! I do find it interesting, though, that here in America we have retained the idea of cooking meatballs in tomato sauce, whether the idea is from Sicily or Naples, and meatballs are paired with spaghetti is indeed an “American classic”.

 

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 * A final tidbit of interesting information:  when I looked up the word “polpette” in the dictionary, which means “meatballs,” I discovered that the Italian singular “polpetta” for  the singular meatball, has several negative connotations.  “Polpetta” can refer to “poisoned bait,” possibly because the reference is to little pieces of meat that are poisoned. “Polpetta” can also be used in a figurative sense, to mean that a person is a “dud” or a “drag.”  

Kathryn Occhipinti


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1  and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet @travelitalian1 for Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
Learn Conversational Italian.

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Meatballs: A Tribute to our Italian Mothers

Pasta and Lentils

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian pasta and lentils — is said to bring families around the world good luck for the new year !

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck! 

Pasta with lentils or lentil soup is a New Year’s tradition in many Italian households. The  lentil dishes are said to bring to luck to the family on New Year’s Day.  I am not sure if anyone really knows exactly why lentils are supposed to be good luck.  Maybe it is because they are shaped like small coins?

Whatever the reason, pasta and lentils is a hearty and delicious winter combination. Lentils are rich in protein,  and the pasta/lentil combination was probably an important contribution to family nutrition  in the days of the “cucina povera” cooking in Italy. Flavored with a bit of pancetta (Italian peppery bacon), garlic and tomato, the lentils make a delicious sauce that coats the pasta beautifully.

I used “maltagliati” or “poorly cut” pasta for this dish,  which to me is reminiscent of its “cucina povera,” origins but also because  the lentils cling nicely to the short, flat noodles. If you cannot find maltagliati pasta, lasagna noodles broken by hand into small, irregular pieces will give a similar effect.

Buon anno 2019 a tutti!  Try my pasta and lentils dish on a wintry day for a warm and comforting meal.   -Kathyn Occhipinti


Italian Pasta and Lentils

 

Italian Lentils and Pasta
Pasta and Lentils ready to serve for Italian New Year’s Sunday dinner

Ingredients
(Serves 4)


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pancetta (Italian bacon), diced finely
1  small carrot, chopped finely*
1 stalk of celery, chopped finely*
1 small onion, skin removed, chopped finely*
1 small clove garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup dry Italian wine, such as Chianti
1 cup Italian lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
pinch of dried thyme or rosemary
3 cups of water
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
1 lb. maltagliati pasta or lasagna noodles, coarsely broken into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*See below for note about how to chop soup vegetables.

 

Method

Before starting to make the lentil sauce, put a large pot of salted water to boil on a back burner.  Cover so it will come to a boil quickly and be ready when you need to cook the pasta.

 Use a large frying pan or Dutch oven to cook the lentils on the stove top.  Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, which will take about 1/4 cup or so.  Let the oil heat a bit over medium heat.

Add the chopped vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, and saute in the garlic until they soften, about 5 minutes.

The pour in the red wine and then bring to a boil. Boil off about half of the wine.

Put the lentils to the pan.  If you want firmer lentils, you can saute them at this point.  Otherwise, add the water.  Stir. Bring back to the boil and then lower heat and simmer the lentils about 20 minutes.

When the lentils have softened a bit, remove the bay leaf. Then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken or vegetable broth.  Add more water if needed. Bring up to a simmer again and cook 10 – 15 minutes more, or until lentils are of desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, put the pasta into the boiling water.  Stir. Cover the pot to return to the boil Remove cover, stir again and let pasta cook, stirring occasionally.  Cook for less time than the package directions, to a very firm al dente, as the pasta will finish cooking with the lentils.

When the pasta is ready, drain, reserving some of the pasta water.

Add the pasta to the lentils.  Add the pasta water if needed.  The sauce should be fairly thick and coat the pasta nicely as you mix.

Cook over medium low heat another 5 minutes or so, until all is heated through and pasta is al dente.

Add the grated cheese and mix again to coat.

Serve steaming hot with crusty bread. Serve additional cheese and black pepper on the side to be added as desired.

New Year’s toast: Buon Anno!  Buon Appetito!

 

*How to Chop Vegetables
Carrots: Cut lengthwise to half, and then lengthwise again to get quarters. Line them up side by side and then cut crosswise from the tips to the base of the carrot to get small, even pieces that look like quarters of a circle.
Celery: Cut lengthwise through each celery stalk as many times as needed to give pieces the same thickness as the carrot pieces. (You will need more lengthwise cuts at the thicker part of the celery near the base.) Then cut crosswise from the tip to the base to get small, rectangular  pieces of celery about the same size as the carrot pieces.
 Onions: Cut lengthwise through the onion. Turn one of the halves flat side down.  Holding the onion together with one hand, cut lengthwise along the green lines through the onion, except for the root holding the onion together at the base.  Turn and cut horizontally, from the side away from the stem toward the stem.  Just before reaching the stem, flip the onion flat again and make the final cuts.  Discard the piece that contains the stem.

— by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1  and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet @travelitalian1 for Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
Learn Conversational Italian.

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck

Sliced Italian pot roast

Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine for Sunday Dinner

Italian Pot Roast in  Barolo Wine for Sunday Dinner

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine

The most moist and flavorful pot roast is Italian—and easy to make! Try it for a special Sunday dinner.

Try Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine for YOUR Sunday Dinner! 

“Do Italians really make pot roast?” I am happy to share not only that Italians do make pot roast, but also that Italian-style pot roast is the most moist and flavorful pot roast I’ve ever tasted!

When I lived in San Francisco, I discovered the wonderful way that Northern Italians from the Lombardy region have with pot roast. They braise their pot roast slowly, under low heat for many hours, with a full-bodied northern Italian red wine called Barolo wine. With this method, the meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious. If you can’t find the Barolo wine that is typical of Northern Italy, Barbera wine or any hearty Italian red wine will do.

I’ve been making Italian pot roast in red wine for many years now, usually as a special treat for Sunday dinners with my family. The nice thing about the Italian red wine method is that the meat is even more flavorful if reheated; with this in mind, the dish is traditionally prepared the day before serving. Cook the meat until it is almost done, then reheat and finish in about an hour’s time for your special dinner the next day. And don’t worry—there is virtually no way to overcook pot roast with this method!

For the Italian pot roast recipe below, you will need a 3 lb. top round or rump round cut of beef. Ask your butcher to tie your meat with butcher’s twine, so the roast will stay intact as it cooks. Or, if you’d like to try to tie the meat yourself, click on the link to a master chef’s video from Le Cordon Bleu.

The recipe below also calls for “larding” the meat. This is an old method, whereby salt pork is inserted into tough cuts of meat to yield more tenderness and flavor. Nowadays, salt pork can be hard to find. And although larding is not absolutely necessary, I find that when I use a minimally processed bacon fat—no smoke, salt, or other flavorings added—this little bit of added fat does seem to help keep the roast moist during the long braising time. I have provided below a simple method for larding meat with kitchen utensils found in most homes. If you are interested in a special larding gadget and watching the larding process in real time, click on this video: Tescoma Presto Larding Needle.

Of course, you may add a vegetable side dish (contorno) to your pot roast meal. Northern Italy is the home of polenta, which would make a wonderful accompaniment. Small boiled potatoes and cut carrots are also nice to frame your roast when you present it on a serving dish.

And don’t throw away the vegetables that have been braising with the roast—those onions, carrots, and celery may have an unappealing brownish color, but they will also have developed a wonderful sweetness. Serve as a garnish to top the pot roast slices when they are plated. Ladle the finished slices with the warm pot roast juices and enjoy!  Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine 

Italian pot roast
Italian pot roast with potatoes and carrots

 

Ingredients
            for the Pot Roast:           

1 (3 lb.) top round of beef,  tied with butcher’s twine
6 strips natural, uncured, unsalted bacon
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic,
with the second clove sliced lengthwise into several thin slices
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole, dried clove
1 onion, chopped coarsely
3 carrots, sliced diagonally into thick slices
2 stalks of celery, sliced diagonally into thick slices
1 cup Barolo wine, Barbera wine, or any full-bodied Italian red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste

Ingredients
     for the Vegetable Garnish

1 lb. of small red or yellow potatoes
1 lb. of carrots, cut into serving pieces
Fresh parsley

 

Method

Prepare the meat and vegetables:

Prepare your top round or rump round meat by rinsing, patting dry, and then tying with butcher’s twine, if the butcher has not already done this for you.

Pot roast Italian style
Top round cut tied with butcher’s twine

Lard the meat by making holes lengthwise through the roast and then pushing a strip of fat from the bacon through each hole. One of my steel barbecue skewers cuts through the meat nicely and makes a hole about the right size. I use my fingers and, if necessary, my knife sharpener or the dowel of a wooden spoon to push the fat through. A special larding device, of course, does the job easily and quickly (see above for the link).

Rub the meat all over with the garlic. If you like, make additional small cuts with a paring knife and insert small slices of garlic into the meat.

Pot roast larded with garlic
The top round is turned on its end and larded. Small pieces of garlic have been inserted as well.

Cut up your vegetables, so all is ready to go before you start to cook.

Pot roast with vegetables
Top round tied, larded, and surrounded by chopped vegetables ready for the pot.

 

Cook your pot roast:

Heat the butter and oil together under low heat in a deep, heavy pan. Use an oven-proof pan or pot if you have one. (Or you can transfer to a pot suitable for the oven later.)

When the butter has melted, add the pot roast and brown the meat under medium heat, turning the meat with tongs so that each side browns nicely.

After the meat has browned completely, add the clove, onions, carrots, celery, and wine, with 1 cup of water.

If you are making this dish on the stovetop, cover and cook slowly under low to medium heat, so the liquid is kept at a simmer.

 -or-

If you have an oven-proof pan, I find it easier to transfer the pan to the oven and cook at 325°. If you do not have an oven-proof pan, you can move the pot roast from the pan into a pot, but be sure to scrape the bottom of the original pan with a wooden spoon so the liquid contains all of the good-tasting browned pieces from the bottom. Then pour the liquid over the pot roast.

The pot roast should cook gently for 3 hours. During that time, every 30 minutes or so, uncover briefly, turn the pot roast gently, and baste it in its juices.

After 3 hours, add the tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup of water. You may need to add additional water to the pot if some has evaporated and the juices become too thick.

Continue cooking and braising as above for another 2 hours.

The cooking process can be stopped at this time. The meat should be tender enough to flake easily when tested with a fork along one of the corners. If not, continue to cook for an additional hour or so.

When the meat is done cooking, it is traditional to leave the meat in the pot with the juices and cooking vegetables until the next day, then reheat an additional 30 minutes to an hour or so before serving. (Refrigerate the pot roast until ready to cook for this final hour.)

While the pot roast is reheating, prepare your favorite vegetable to go with the meal. Polenta, small potatoes, and boiled or glazed cut carrots look nice surrounding the pot roast, but any favorite vegetable is fine.

Serve your pot roast:

Sliced Italian pot roast
Italian pot roast sliced and ready to serve

When you are ready to serve, take the pot roast out of its cooking pan and place it in the center of a platter. Remove the twine and cut into slices—before or after presenting at the table.

Strain the pan juices, and reserve the vegetables to place around the pot roast. They will look brown but should still have some shape and will taste very sweet.

Drizzle some of the pan juices over the pot roast and reserve the rest to serve in a gravy boat.

Surround your pot roast with prepared vegetables of your choice for the final presentation. Serve and enjoy!

Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1  and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet @travelitalian1 for Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
Learn Conversational Italian.

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine

Italian Sunday Dinner - Braciole and Pasta

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce for Sunday Dinner

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce for Sunday Dinner 

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogBraciole: It’s what’s for Sunday dinner!

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce for Sunday Dinner 

Italian beef rolls—involtini di carne,  also known as braciole, bracioli, or  bruciuluni (in Palermo Sicilian dialect)—are a favorite southern Italian treat that are often served for the Sunday family dinner. What I enjoy most about this dish is that there are so many different variations, and every family that makes braciole has its own special traditional recipe. I’ve found that a little bit of breadcrumbs and prosciutto make for the most flavorful braciole. My family hides a whole hard-boiled egg in the center for a surprise when the braciole is cut open. Other families chop the egg in half or into smaller pieces, and some families do not use egg at all!

By the way, I am not sure of the origin of the word braciole used here in America, but in Italy, braciola refers to a cut of pork (usually grilled), and this dish can be made with pork cutlets. My friend Peter Palazzolo from the Speak Sicilian! Facebook group mentioned to me that long ago this rolled-up meat was cooked with grape vine twigs cured like coal, or bracia.  But, I think my friend and Italian teacher Maria Vanessa Colapinto (blog: Eleganza per Me),  is correct with her idea that the real origin of this word comes from the Italian for the old-type grill that the rolled up meat for this dish was cooked on. This grill is still in use today and is called a “brace.” Meat cooked in this way is “all’abrace,” or “on the grill.”

A Note about Italian Tomato Sauce 

When I was growing up, I always knew it was Sunday from the wonderful fragrance of the pot of homemade tomato sauce cooking on the stove top that would slowly permeate every corner of our house. If we couldn’t wait for the sauce to finish cooking, a slice of Italian bread dipped in the sauce would serve to keep our appetites at bay until mom or grandma deemed it was finally perfect.

Southern Italian tomato sauce is cooked at least an hour or so and usually longer when other meats are added to flavor the sauce. Every Italian family has its own special sauce that has been passed down for generations. I am including here the basic tomato sauce recipe from my family that I use to cook the braciole.

Most Italians use only a little basil in their tomato sauce and sometimes some parsley, and I have included both herbs in the tomato sauce recipe below. The Italian motto seems to be “the less the better” when it comes to tomato sauce, although the ingredients used must be high quality. Oregano is a herb not generally found in tomato sauce in Italy, although legend has it that American soldiers brought oregano home after World War II, and it seems like the American families here have adopted this additional herb for their sauce in many parts of the country.

Also, if good tomatoes or good tomato puree is used (with less acid), it is not necessary to add sugar to tomato sauce, but in some parts of America, a sweeter sauce is preferred. Growing up as I did in New York, we liked the Contadina brand of tomato products.

There are as many variations as there are families in Italy and America, so make the pot of sauce your family has come to love, and enjoy a special Sunday together!

Buon appetito!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Braciole in Tomato Sauce Recipe

Southern Italian Tomato Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 oz.) Contadina brand tomato puree or chopped tomatoes
1 can Contadina brand tomato paste
1/4 cup dried parsley or chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon dried basil or 2 Tablespoons torn fresh basil
1 Tablespoon of salt or to taste
Optional meat: ground beef, Italian sausage, braciole

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and garlic with a wooden spoon until softened.

Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, parsley, and basil to the same pot.

Add 2 cups of water.

Cover, bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer on medium-low heat with the lid partially covering the pot, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for at least 1 hour, so the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Cook for at least 1 hour; at least 1.5 hours if adding meat to the sauce. (Brown any meat in a separate skillet before adding it.)

Add additional water if the sauce becomes too thick, or cook for additional time with the lid of the pot off if the sauce becomes too thin.

 

Prepare the Braciole Beef Cutlets

Any thin, flat cut of beef stew meat can be used, such as top round. If you can, ask your butcher to cut the meat against the grain to make the thin cutlet slices, so that the meat will cook properly in the sauce and virtually melt in your mouth when it is done. At Caputo’s grocery stores in Chicago, the meat is nicely marbled and labeled “braggiola steak,” an Americanization of the original word, no doubt.

DSCN2228

Tenderize Braciole Steak
Braciole meat ready to tenderize

 

One package with four braciole cutlets, about 1.5 pounds for four people.

 

 

 

Lay the cutlets of meat out on a cutting board. Trim them to approximately the same rectangular size. Tenderize and flatten slightly with a meat mallet. Don’t omit this step, or your meat cutlet will be too small and stiff to roll properly!

 

 

 

Fill, Assemble, and Cook the Braciole –
For 4 Braciole, divide ingredients below evenly on each cutlet

4 hard boiled eggs, whole or halved (small eggs work best for whole)
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, stems removed, chopped coarsely
1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/4 cup  Provolone cheese or other sharp hard cheese
(Pecorino-Romano, Asiago), coarsely grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs browned in olive oil
(flavor olive oil first with a finely chopped clove of garlic in the oil)
(Progresso brand Italian breadcrumbs or make your own!)
4 slices of Prosciutto (optional)

Other additions/substitutions: caciocavallo cheese, pancetta, ham, salami, mushrooms

Braciole
Ready to roll the braciole

Salt and pepper the cutlet. Place the egg and other ingredients desired onto the beef cutlet.  (If you cannot find  braciole slices  large enough  in your grocery, you can overlap two pieces and they will cook together nicely after they are tied up, or use meat mallet to enlarge.)

Layer the ingredients as follows for each cutlet:  optional slice of prosciutto, breadcrumbs, cheese, cup parsley, onion and and egg

 

 

Roll up the braciole
Braciole rolled and tied

The braciole  cutlet is rolled over the egg, with ends tucked in as you roll, and then tied with butchers twine. The ends also can be sealed with toothpicks.  For more layers, roll along the short end; less layers, roll along the long end.

To see step-by-step pictures of the methods for rolling a braciola, go to Stella Lucente Pinterest.

 

 

Braciole and Tomato Sauce
Braciole browning in a pan and a freshly made pot of tomato sauce

Brown each assembled braciola in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Turn so they brown nicely on all sides.

Have sauce slowly boiling on the stove top. Gently lower the braciole into the sauce.

 

 

 

Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.  Do not overcook, or the meat will become dry.

While braciole are cooking in the sauce, set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil and cook spaghetti or another pasta of your choice. Time the pasta so that it is hot and ready to be sauced when the braciole are done.

Remove the meat string or toothpicks before serving the braciole!

Serve with your favorite pasta and extra sauce on the side.  Pasta used for the picture in this blog is Mafaldine 81 from Divella, made in Italy.

 —Adapted from the cooking classes given by the Italian-American Society of Peoria, with special thanks to Rose M. Occhipinti


Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1  and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet @travelitalian1 for Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
Learn Conversational Italian.

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner