Many of my favorite childhood memories are with my grandfather. While growing up, my weekend mornings started at 4 a.m., helping him clean the local butchery to get ready for the busy crowds. The butcher would give us the ‘scraps’—beef, pork, veal, chicken, anything.
I remember grinding everything with bread, cheese, salt, pepper, onion... which then inspired my mom’s meatball recipe (the best around). We would pair the meatballs with fresh pasta and tomato sauce to feed our whole family.
These memories are still so vivid to me and even more special now that I’m creating new memories with my own family in the kitchen and around the table.
Fresh Pasta with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
4 whole eggs
Pinch of table salt
Pinch of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3½ - 4 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1. In a food processor with the blade attachment, add the eggs, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and pulse a few times.
2. Add half of the flour and pulse until the eggs absorb it and you have a semi-thick paste. Add the rest of the flour and allow the blade to rotate continuously. When the dough is ready, you should see a ball-shaped mass of flour and eggs bouncing around thecanister. If the dough is still too wet to the touch, add an extra tablespoon of flour. If it is a bit dry, add a little water as needed.
3. Take the pasta out and roll/shape according to the directions of the recipe you are making. Stuff with ricotta according to the selected pasta shape, whether is ravioli or rigatoni or cannelloni.
4. If you’re saving it for later, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for up to three days. Pasta can be frozen, after shaped, for up to three months.
Basil Tomato Sauce
5 minced garlic cloves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
16-ounce canned crushed plum tomatoes
Small bunch of fresh basil
1. Add olive oil, pepper and salt, garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven; better if non-stick surface.
2. Cook garlic until golden brown, then add in plum tomatoes, keep fire on high until the tomato sauce starts to boil. Reduce to medium flame, stirring every few minutes.
3. Cook time is about 20-30 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and add in sugar and basil leaves, check salt and pepper for more seasoning.
1½ pounds ground beef, 80/20
4 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1½ cup parmesan cheese, grated 1½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 whole egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
2½ shallots or ¼ cup onion, finely minced
1½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2½ cups finished tomato sauce
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1. Place all ingredients except the tomato sauce, the parsley, and the extra-virgin olive oil in a medium-size bowl and mix thoroughly by hand until they are completely combined, and the mixture is uniformly firm.
2. Coat your hands in olive oil, and form balls, slightly bigger than a golf ball.
3. Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, then drop the meatballs into the sauce and add enough water (about 1 cup) to allow the sauce to reduce and simmer, but not so much that the sauce is totally liquid.
4. Cook for about 10 minutes on one side, then turn the meatballs over. Add some more water, and cook for another 10 minutes, using a spoon to cover the meatballs with the sauce as they simmer. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Serve with fresh pasta, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, more parmesanon top, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
About Fabio: Fabio Viviani is a chef, culinary personality, restaurateur and cookbook author.
Photo of Fabio, wife Ashley and son Gage originally published in Country Magazine, JWC Media/Credit: Frank Ishman
Around the Table