Alice Waters’ Italian Meatballs

Posted on: November 13, 2009

I never got around to writing about what we ate at the mini road trip my friends and I took before I left New York.  Week after week passed and when November hit and I decided to, a little absentmindedly, participate in NaBloPoMo, I tagged this recipe in my head for that one day when everything falls behind and it’s almost midnight and I still don’t have a clue what I’m going to write about.  I was pretty organized that first week.  I made something during the day, wrote about it at night, and posted it the next morning.  But this week has been a bit of a struggle.  I’m not at that point where I want to tear my hair out and beat myself over the head for doing something crazy like promising to post every day for one whole month.  Somebody told me today to post a picture of a fried egg, but I won’t go that low…yet.

It’s really quite a relief that I have these meatballs to save me today.  I actually really enjoyed them.  They were moist and juicy, and because they were simmered in the sauce for a long time, it really livened the flavors. I’ve always made my meatballs big because I have no patience, but I think they’re easier to handle when they’re smaller.  In the past my meatballs always ended up with some nice 90 degree angles, but this time, they were curvier.  I think it was because they were small.

I got this recipe from Alice Waters’ book The Art of Simple Cooking. It was the first cookbook that I ever bought, so it makes me sort of proud to see myself master a few of those recipes.  I did change a few things: I used turkey instead of pork, fresh toasted garlic naan bread instead of day old bread, and upped the parmesan cheese from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.  The naan bread sounds strange, but I don’t think it really made a difference.  That’s just what I had in hand. I also used my own tomato sauce recipe from an Italian cooking class a took a few years back (a story and recipes for another time).

I fried my meatballs, but you can also bake them in a preheated 450 degree F oven.

Alice Waters’ Italian Meatballs

Adapted from The Art of Simple Cooking

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey
1 cup torn up pieces of bread, toasted if fresh
1/2 cup milk
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
Small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Pinch of cayenne
1 egg, lightly beated
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Tomato Sauce

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed or chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons dried basil
Chili flakes, optional
Olive oil

In a saucepan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Cook the garlic for a minute and then add the diced onions.  Cook until the onions are translucent but not caramelized. Add the tomatoes along with the tomato juice, dried basil and chili flakes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  While the tomato sauce is simmering mix the ground beef and turkey together.  Season with salt and pepper. Soak the bread pieces in the milk and leave for 15 minutes. When the bread is soaked, drain the milk and squeeze some of the moisture out.  Add the bread, grated onion, olive oil, garlic cloves, oregano, parsley, cayenne, egg, and parmesan cheese to the ground meat.  Combine.  Form into size of choice.  Mine were about 2 inches wide. Heat a skillet with olive oil and fry meatballs over medium to medium low heat until browned.  Transfer meatballs to a plate and blot out excess grease.  Add them to the tomato sauce and keep at a simmer for another 30 minutes.


  • hungry dog

    These look great! I just happen to have this cookbook so I shall give them a try. I like your changes/additions–who would have thought naan would work, but apparently it did. Just another reminder that we shouldn’t feel hemmed in by recipes. Nice job!

  • jenny

    How is The Art of Simple Cooking? I’m thinking of buying it.

  • Jessica

    Jenny- The Art of Simple Cooking is a really great general cookbook. It was a great fit for me because it’s very informative, especially to a new cook!

  • Lynne

    I’ve had Italian cooking on my brain ever since I came back from Rome and the Cinque Terre. Your meatballs are the best looking ones I’ve ever seen.

  • babycakes

    so creative jess. :) these look so good!!

  • Patsy

    Hi I have just made the scones they look yummy and so light
    (note to self) first check you have all the ingrediants before you start to whip up the scones as cream of Tatar is not easy to make Hahaha
    now must see how they taste

    Regards Patsy

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