An Irish Grandma’s Italian Meatballs

Looking to channel your inner chef? Are you bored with your go-to recipes? We’re here to help and provide inspiration for new meals you can make at home with Vinous in the Kitchen. Led by Eric Guido, Vinous’ resident Italian wine critic and also a professionally trained chef, Vinous in the Kitchen is a series of delicious recipes you can easily prepare at home. Through his video tutorial and accompanying article, Eric will guide you through each recipe step-by-step, offering useful tips and techniques, as well as ideas on wine pairings. Find the bottles on Delectable, and make sure to share your own favorite pairings. An Irish Grandma’s Italian Meatballs are on the menu today. Buon appetito! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ I can still hear it now...the 1940s big band music that was always playing in my grandmother’s kitchen. Like something out of a movie, she was the patriarch of the family, having devoted every moment of every day to her family first. When you were in her home, you wanted for nothing. Each end table had a small bowl of spice drops and one of chocolates; there always seemed to be tea and coffee made, not to mention a piece of cake or biscotti to accompany it. What’s more, she never sat down when the family dinner was served. Instead she would continue to usher in plate after plate of food to the dining room table, until finally my grandfather or father would holler for her to sit down before everything got cold. Through it all, the music played. The funny part about my grandmother and her Italian cooking, which was pretty much the only kind of food that she made, is that she wasn’t even Italian. Like many Italian men in the 1920s and 1930s, my grandfather fell in love with an Irish girl, and so in order for her to be accepted into his family, she had to go to school in my great grandmother’s kitchen. You see, it wasn’t proper that their son would marry a girl that couldn’t feed him ‘properly’. That’s how it all started, and like nearly every Italian American family of the time, the food wasn’t the traditional cuisine of their region of Italy - it was Italian-American cooking. Sauce, sauce and more sauce over every kind of pasta and breaded and fried foods you could imagine. Of course there were bitter greens, calamari and seafood salads, but these large-scaled meals were all about the ziti, eggplant parm, lasagna, and of course, meatballs. Thinking back to that kitchen, there I was as a little boy who thought that his grandmother was the most important person in his family’s world, and I was probably right. Since I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her, and I had a desire to understand cooking, I found myself in that kitchen with her up until the very moment that I was forced to sit at the table. With me underfoot, she decided that it was time that I learned to cook, and so the first recipe I was ever taught became the thing I was responsible for making each Sunday at the young age of six: my Irish grandmother’s Italian meatballs. In the end, these meatballs would be served both dry, in a bowl, but also added to her Sunday sauce (which is an article unto itself), and so I decided to include a little Sunday Sauce Cheat, just to give you as close to the experience as I can. However, be aware that although I make these two items together in my video, to save time, I highly recommend making the sauce first, and letting it rest and slowly simmer while you finish up your meatballs. As for the meatball recipe, to this day I still mix my meatballs by hand, and I will often adjust the ingredients by the feel of the mixture because that’s how I was taught. However, over time, an actual recipe came from it all, and that’s what I’m happy to share with you today. WATCH THE FULL VIDEO HERE THE SUNDAY CHEAT SAUCE: You’ll notice that there’s no sugar added to this sauce. However, if you properly de-seed and remove any woody parts from your tomatoes, you won’t have to worry about balancing out any bitter flavors. Ingredients You'll Need: 2 28-ounce cans of San Marzano plum tomatoes 1 medium onion chopped fine 4 cloves garlic chopped fine 1 tsp Red Wine vinegar or Sherry vinegar (You can substitute ¼ cup of red wine) 1 tsp basil 1 tsp oregano 1 tsp rosemary ¼ tsp tarragon Pinch of red pepper flakes 2 cups of beef stock Salt and Pepper to taste THE PROCESS: 1. Open your cans of San Marzano tomatoes and pour into a wire mesh sieve over a large bowl. Have a second bowl off to the side. One by one, inspect each tomato, pull away any leftover skin and discard. While holding the tomato in your hand, use your thumb to break open the flesh and remove any seeds from the tomato. Don’t worry if they fall into the mixture in the sieve because we will be straining it all. You can also remove any woody parts from the tomato itself and discard those as well. The idea is to remove anything that may add bitterness to the sauce. Once each tomato is done, move it to your second bowl. 2. After you’ve worked through all of the tomatoes, use the bottom of a ladle to push any remaining tomato juice or paste out of the sieve. What will remain are the seeds, which can be discarded, while the juices can be combined with the plum tomatoes in the second bowl. 3. Now, over a medium flame, pour enough olive oil into a pot or pan to just cover the bottom. Once heated through, add your onions and garlic with a pinch of salt, and allow them to sauté in the pan for three to four minutes. It’s okay if they begin to take on some color. 4. (Optional) You can add a ¼ cup of red wine to your onions and garlic at this time to accentuate the flavors of the tomatoes. 5. Add your tomato mixture, two cups of stock, Red Wine or Sherry vinegar, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, red pepper flakes and a healthy pinch of salt to the pot and allow this mixture to come to a simmer. 6. Set your timer and simmer for 30 minutes, making sure to stir the sauce from time to time to prevent any items from burning on the bottom. 7. Check your sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. 8. You can serve this as is (chunky), or use an immersion blender to blend until fine. 9. If you’ve made this with meatballs, they can now be added to the sauce and allowed to rest for ten to fifteen minutes over a low flame, so the flavors will combine. 10. Serve or save. The fact is, these are even better the following day. AN IRISH GRANDMA’S ITALIAN MEATBALLS: Ingredients You'll Need (Makes 12 medium-sized meatballs): ½ pound ground beef ½ pound ground pork ½ pound ground veal 1 medium yellow onion (small dice) 4 cloves of garlic (small dice) 2 tbls. chopped Italian Parsley (rough chop) 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese 1 egg (beaten) ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper 1 tsp. kosher salt (plus more to season to taste) Olive oil for sauté and frying SUGGESTED WINE PAIRINGS: Chianti Classico - Featured: 2016 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Barbera - Featured: 2016 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Nizza Cipressi Montepulciano - Featured: 2017 Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Malandrino Zinfandel THE PROCESS: 1. In a sauté pan, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and set the flame to medium. Allow the olive oil to heat through and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Sweat the onions until translucent and add the garlic. Continue sweating this mixture until the garlic begins to take on color, but do not let it brown. Immediately remove the mixture from the pan to cool and spread out over parchment paper or a foil-lined sheet pan. 2. In a large bowl, begin assembling the remaining ingredients. Add the chopped meats, egg and parsley. With clean hands (hands are the best utensil to use for this preparation), mix the contents of the bowl. Then add the onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, pepper and salt. Mix again with your hands until fully combined. Create a small test meatball (you must taste for seasoning). 3. Fill a fry pan with enough olive oil to come half of the way up the test meatball. Put the flame on medium and allow the oil to heat through. Next, add the test meatball to the pan. Watch carefully to assure that the oil isn’t too hot. The meatball shouldn’t sear immediately but should instead stay 2-3 minutes on each side between turning. Once it has browned on each side, remove to a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, give it a taste. If it needs more salt or pepper, add it now. 4. When happy with the mixture, begin to roll out your meatballs. Be careful not to make them too big, or you risk not cooking them through. You should be able to roll out about 12 meatballs. 5. Add them to the oil, again making sure they do not burn. Lower or raise the flame as necessary but remember that these will be further cooked in your sauce or the oven. Once they are browned on both sides, you have two options. First, you could continue to bake them in a 350 to 400-degree oven for five minutes and then serve them dry with sauce on the side. Or, my favorite, allow them to drain on a sheet pan or paper towel lined plate, and then add them to your sauce and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Once done, spoon them over your favorite pasta. What’s great about this method is that the flavors of the sauce and meatballs mix and bolster each other. In the end, they will taste great either way, and they will be even better the next day, so don’t be afraid to double this recipe and put some in the fridge for later. --Eric Guido, An Irish Grandma’s Italian Meatballs , June 2020 Check out previous Vinous in the Kitchen Recipes: Bring Back Pancakes from Scratch Fall-Off-the-Fork Braised Pork Shoulder The Pride of Piedmont: Brasato al Barolo Secret to the Perfect Seared Salmon Mastering Cast Iron Chicken

Rocca di Montegrossi

Chianti Classico Sangiovese 2016

The nose is dark and rich, showing sweet herbs, crushed black cherry, lavender and violets with hints of floral undergrowth. On the palate, soft textures give way to a mix of red and blue fruits, hints of spice and savory herbs, all made vibrant through brisk acidity. The finish is medium in length, with a buzz of lingering acids mixed with fine tannin, as tart red fruits and spices slowly fade from the senses. This is so easy to like already, yet sure to improve with mid-term cellaring. — 4 years ago

Lyle, Daniel P. and 11 others liked this

Il Molino di Grace

Il Margone Gran Selezione Chianti Classico Sangiovese 2012

Wonderful with Beth’s meatballs and sauce! — 4 years ago

Jack SorboPaul J. Sorbo
with Jack and Paul
Paul and Mike liked this
Paul K Sorbo

Paul K Sorbo Premium Badge

8 yr old Chianti - very nice - someday we will visit!

Michele Chiarlo

Cipressi Nizza Barbera d'Asti 2016

A serious Barbara. Ruby with medium+ concentration and staining. Sweet red cherry, cola nut, cranberry and pomegranate juice, licorice, clove, earth, orange peel. Brett, leather, game. Elevated acidity, intensity, and length. — 4 years ago

Chris and Mike liked this

Azienda Agricola Cosimo Taurino

Notarpanaro Negroamaro Salento Rosso 2010

love this grape and really a nice food wine. went well with sphaghetti and meatballs. in a great drinking window. — 4 years ago

Ron, Pooneet and 2 others liked this


Riserva Caparsino Chianti Classico Sangiovese 2013

Supporting local restaurants with take out during coronavirus. Purchased from Rossoblu to pair with lasagna and meatballs. — 4 years ago

Brad Davis
with Brad
Mike liked this

Tenuta di Trinoro

Le Cupole Rosso Toscana Red Blend 2017

Easter pasta, meatballs, and sausage, with this Super Tuscan gem! Paired nicely but did not overpower the meal. For any Italian meal this wine should be at the top of your list for a moderately priced red that goes with anything. — 4 years ago

Mike liked this

Renato Ratti

Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo 2017

Medium bodied wine with juicy notes of strawberry and raspberry. Paired well with spaghetti and meatballs. 🍝🍷🥖 — 4 years ago

Eric Mckenzie
with Eric
David, Tom and 25 others liked this
MaJ CappS

MaJ CappS Influencer Badge

This a good one! 🍷
Sharon B

Sharon B Influencer Badge

@MaJ CappS yes it was pretty good!


Like your stemware! 🍷

Domaine Grand Nicolet

Côtes du Rhône Grenache Blend 2013

Very tasty with pork meatballs stewed in tomatoes. Fairly tannic with cherry and berry flavors. — 4 years ago

Mike liked this

Cataldi Madonna

Malandrino Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2012

So handsome! Not too overwhelming. Solid and delicious without being too heavy. — 9 years ago

Fernando and Mike liked this