When I first started working in Italian restaurants, occasionally we served a huge meatball with spaghetti as a special du jour for two guests. The big meatball weighed over one pound! When a waiter carried the spaghetti and giant meatball through the dining room, customers at every table stopped whatever they were doing and just stared at the magnificent sight. Their jaws dropped in awe and they actually broke into applause. A gigantic meatball sure is a crowd pleaser!
Back in the mid 1900's, many Italian restaurants in New York offered a giant meatball. By the time that the health food craze took shape in the early 1970's, the giant meatball was pretty much a relic of the past.
The Italian chef that first showed me how to make the giant meatball came from Northern Italy in 1984 and he was familiar with old school New York Italian style food. It was nice to see a first generation Italian chef treat the old classic giant meatball idea like it was something novel and new. His giant meatball sure brought back a lot of good memories.
A bocce ball sized meatball is a real attention getter! When a giant Italian meatball cooks, it fills the air with an aroma that can best be compared to an Italian love song. A giant Italian meatball for two is just about as romantic as it gets.
Romantically sharing an aromatic gigantic Italian meatball is the way to go. Trying to conquer a gigantic Italian meatball with a machismo solo attempt is nearly impossible to do. It is all too easy to hit the wall of too much of a good thing after getting halfway through. Then all one can say is "I cannot eat another bite of this great tasting giant meatball or I might explode!"
Salsa di Pomodoro con Basilico: (Tomato Basil Sauce)
This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions of sauce.
Tomato Basil Sauce is made just like Marinara.
Step 1: Place a 28 ounce can of imported Italian peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl. (Or use canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.)
Crush and squeeze the tomatoes by hand till no large chunks remain.
Set the prepared tomatoes aside.
Step 2: Heat 3/4 cup of pomace olive oil in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 4 minced garlic cloves.
Fry the garlic in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden color.
Step 3: Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
Briefly sauté till the onion starts to turn clear in color.
Step 4: Immediately add the reserved prepared tomatoes and their juices.
Add 1 small bunch of whole fresh basil leaves. (medium to medium large size leaves)
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 5: Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while stirring often. (Do not over heat this sauce!)
Step 6: Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
Gently simmer the sauce and stir the olive oil into the sauce once every five minutes.
*The olive oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly, so the olive oil combines with the tomatoes and juices!
Simmer the sauce for up to 40 minutes, till the excess tomato juices have reduced and the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
Step 6: Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
Remove the pot from the heat.
*Just like Marinara a Tomato Basil Sauce should never kept warm. Tomato Basil Sauce is always reheated to order!
Giant Bocce Meatball:
This recipe yields 1 giant meatball that weighs a little more than 18 ounces after baking.
*The restaurant technique for making a giant meatball involves repeatedly dipping the meatball in a deep fryer, till a crust is formed and it becomes fairly firm. The giant meatball is then finished in an oven that is set to a moderate temperature.
*For home cooks, baking the giant meatball in a bowl shaped mold works well. The baking of the meatball must be done in stages. The excess grease must be removed occasionally.
Step 1: Place 1 pound of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/2 cup of water soaked Italian bread pith. (Squeeze the water out of the pith before measuring the volume.)
Step 2: Add 1/4 cup of finely grated imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese.
Add 1/3 cup of fine plain bread crumbs.
Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced garlic.
Add 1/4 cup of minced onion.
Add 1 whisked large egg.
Step 3: Add 1/2 tablespoon of leaf oregano.
Add 1 teaspoon of basil.
Add 2 tablespoons of chopped Italian Parsley.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
Add 2 to 3 pinches of black pepper.
Step 4: Thoroughly mix the ingredients together. Knead the mixture just like bread dough.
Step 5: Chill the meatball mixture in a refrigerator till it becomes stiff.
Step 6: Roll the meatball mixture into a very large meatball shape.
Step 7: Wrap the giant meatball with plastic wrap.
Then wrap the meatball with aluminum foil.
Step 8: Select an oven proof soup bowl or mixing bowl that is shaped about the same contour as the giant meatball. The meatball should fit tightly in the bowl! A bowl that is about 5" to 6" wide should fit this recipe.
Place the wrapped meatball in the bowl shaped mold.
Step 9: Set the bowl and the wrapped meatball on a roasting pan.
Bake in a 350ºF oven till it is cooked fairly firm to the touch. (About 1 hour.) Be sure to drain the grease out of the bowl occasionally.
Step 10: Remove the meatball mold and pan from the oven.
Let the meatball cool to almost room temperature, so it is easier to handle.
*Handle the meatball carefully because, it is still may not be fully cooked in the center!
Carefully and gently roll the meatball out of the bowl onto the pan.
Remove the aluminum foil and plastic wrap.
Step 11: *The outside of the meatball should be cooked firm enough, so the meatball does not lose its shape when it is baked a second time.
Place the unwrapped meatball back into the bowl that was used as a mold.
Set the mold with the meatball on the roasting pan.
Bake in a 350ºF oven till the meatball is fully cooked and browned. (A probe thermometer should read at least 165ºF in the center.)
Be sure to drain the grease out of the meatball bowl mold occasionally.
Step 13: Remove the meatball pan from the oven.
Drain the last of the grease off the meatball. Gently roll the meatball out of the mold onto a platter.
Keep the Bocce Meatball warm on a stove top.
Spaghetti and Bocce Meatball with Tomato Basil Sauce:
This recipe yields 1 extra large entrée that can be shared by two guests.
*Wait till the spaghetti is almost fully cooked, before reheating the tomato basil sauce!
Step 1: Cook 1 large portion of thin spaghetti (capellini) in boiling water till it is al dente.
Step 2: Warm 1 3/4 cups of the Tomato Basil Sauce in a wide sauté pan over medium low heat.
Step 3: Drain the water off of the al dente spaghetti.
Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the pan.
Toss the sauce and pasta together.
Place the pasta on a plate, so it forms a thick bed for the bocce meatball.
Step 4: Set the Bocce Meatball in the sauté pan that the pasta was tossed in.
Add 2 ounces of the tomato basil sauce.
Place the pan over medium low heat.
Coat the meatball with the tomato basil sauce as it heats.
Step 5: Set the Bocce Meatball on top of the spaghetti.
Spoon the excess sauce from the pan over the meatball and pasta.
Sprinkle some finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the meatball and pasta.
Garnish with a parsley sprig.
*Serve with grilled garlic bread.
This is the king of meatballs! When this giant Italian meatball is baking, the great aroma will fill the house!