Monday, January 6, 2014

Move over Meatballs - Here comes the Cheese

Happy New Year everyone!   It has turned out to be quite an interesting beginning as this past weekend brought record snowfall and arctic temperatures below 0°.  Way below….

No problem.  Everyone can use a little snow day once in a while, even us big kids.  It’s a time for us to stay home, be cozy, and make something warm and comforting for dinner – like my grandmother’s cheese balls. 

These cheese balls are not served as an appetizer with crackers; rather they are similar to meatballs in that they are browned in olive oil and simmered in tomato sauce.  My grandmother cooks hers in the pot along with her chicken cacciatore or veal scaloppini – no need for pasta in these dishes as the cheese balls take its place.    

When my grandmother was growing up, her mother would make cheese balls on Fridays when the family didn’t eat meat.  While this dish was derived out of necessity, it was also very creative in that it took simple, pantry ingredients and turned them into a hearty and satisfying family meal.  That concept is what makes Italian food so desirable. 

As it is with many old family recipes, there is no real written recipe, only a guide from someone's memories.  Please use the following as your guide and feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Italian Cheese Balls

8 slices of day-old Italian bread with good texture – crusts removed and torn
into small pieces
3 oz. of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese or a mixture of the two
¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon  garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
Olive oil for browning

Combine all ingredients except olive oil.  Shape mixture into patties.  You should have about eight.  I prefer patties to balls because they brown nicer when flat.  Brown the patties in olive oil until golden on both sides.   Simmer for at least one hour in your favorite tomato or pasta sauce.   While simmering, your cheeseballs will absorb the flavors from the ingredients in your sauce. 

Buon appetito!

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