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photo by rafiel chait

vito is not my uncle, but i think everybody wants an uncle like him. i did have the pleasure of meeting him prior to the wedding of his nephew (don) and his soon to be bride (lauren), who are two dear friends of mine, late last year. he made a huge batch of his meatballs for the occasion, and did a demonstration on how to make them to a few lucky bastards who were out at the house my friends were to be married at earlier in the week. of course, i wanted to be there for that, but sadly, i was stuck at work. thankfully, my friend the groom made a video of it, and i am forever grateful.

this video is not only helpful to see how the meatballs are created, but adds a touch of the innuendo that runs in the family, and also shows uncle vito making the meatballs in a manner that i truly believe is the way to cook…by feel, by taste, by smell, by love, and most importantly, by your family and friends.

dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

-julia child

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the sauce:

  • splash of wine
  • 1 can of crushed red tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (14 oz)
  • 1 3/4 cans of water (using the crushed tomato can)
  • 1 tsp of parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, + more to fry the tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cans of tomato paste (6 oz each)

in a large pot combine add all the ingredients in order, except the tomato paste. put on medium-high heat, stir and bring to a decent simmer.

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meanwhile start the meatballs. once you have mixed the meat for the balls, fry the tomato paste in some olive oil for a couple of minutes until the oil is incorporated into the paste.

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add it to the sauce and stir, plus a little more sugar if needed, but i found the sauce pretty sweet as is. reduce to a slow simmer while you make, roll and fry the balls.

the meatballs:

  • 5 pounds of ground beef (80/20)
  • 7 eggs
  • splash of olive oil + more to fry balls in
  • 2 pounds of italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, + more for adding
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs, + more for adding
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder, + more for adding
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil, + more for adding

start with half of the ground beef and crumble into a large pot. add the rest of the ingredients. then crumble the remaining ground beef as well. add another big dash of parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil and garlic powder.

then dig in with both hands. add a splash of olive oil to grease the wheels. ‘pound it, push it down, keep mixing it well…from the bottom, and then push it.’ do this til firm, but not wet. if it feels too wet, add breadcrumbs…i ended up adding about 1/4 cup more.

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squeeze ice cream scoop sized balls (about 2 inches?) 10 times by hand, and then roll in your palms. i ended up with just a little tad bit more than 40 balls, so i used the remaining into a smaller tester ‘veet ball’.

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add a good layer of olive oil to a large fry pan, add meatballs (8-10 per pan, they can be snug), and over medium-high heat brown and turn. careful not to cook them too quickly. let them brown nicely, then add to the sauce. you can continue to use the same pan for the next batch. i found i didn’t need to add additional oil, since the fat and juices of the previous balls worked fine to fry the remaining balls.

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on this particular night i made linguini and veetballs, but i got some nice italian baguette to make meatball sandos for lunch the next day as well:

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i found this will make about 35-45 balls, depending on size, plus of course one tester veet ball.

• on a sad note, we lost uncle vito this past week. i didn’t know he was sick, and only found out when my friend posted his wonderful video of his uncle vito making his amazing meatballs. i feel so fortunate that i was able to meet him, and now pass his recipe on to you, so we can all enjoy. RIP UNCLE VITO!
 
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