November 24, 2020

A la Carte: May Means Meatballs … and Sausages and Gravy!

Lee White

It is May and May usually means lots of sunshine and warm evenings.  It is my favorite season of all, because trees are budding out, tulips are bright and gorgeous, lilies and irises are two weeks away as are lilies of the valley, mu birth flower. I am grateful that the people who sold me my condo, whom I knew from the yacht club, were gardeners. The best I can do is add a few annuals, but they planted the perennials, including a healthy and lush bright red azalea. 

I am also seeing much more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the six years I have lived in Groton. Driving down Rte. 1 and turning a right on my way to Eastern Point Beach, I watched a male fox ambling across the road, heading toward a small apartment complex. I turned another right to watch him and noticed a man on a walker in the fox’s way. I honked my horn so the man would not collide with him.

This morning, before I walked into my office, I looked at the parking lot and spied a turkey, the first I had seen in our complex. It was a young tom, in no hurry at all. I waited another 10 minutes and didn’t see another. I am feeding birds a bit longer than I usually do. (I take away the feeders and suet and add hummingbird feeders, although I haven’t seen one ever.) I am especially thrilled with catbirds and neon yellow finches. It is warm enough to open the outside faucets so I can add water to the bird bath, which they like. 

On the other hand, I still turn on my electric blanket. There is a reason we are told never to plant basil until Memorial Day. This past weekend, I wanted a make a good red sauce with meatballs and sausage. And I have everything for the dish, including pork chops, chopped beef and Italian sausage. If you have just one or two of the meats, the dish will be still fabulous.

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash.

Sunday Gravy with Sausages and Meatballs

Adapted from Johanne Killeen and George Germon, “On Top of Spaghetti,” (Morrow, New York, 2007)

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

One-quarter cup extra virgin olive oil3 pork chops (total weight 1 to 1 and one-half pounds)
1 and one-quarter pounds Italian sweet sausage, halved horizontally
1 cup chopped onions2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or crushed) tomatoes
6-ounce can tomato paste
Cheese finds from Parmigiano-Reggiano or bits of Pecorino Romano (optional)
Mary’s meatballs
1 pound dried spaghetti or rigatoni, cooked
freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add pork chops and sausages and brown on all sides. Transfer chops to a plate. Toss onions into pot with garlic, fennel seeds and salt. Saute over moderate heat, stirring frequently and scraping up any bits, until onions are soft and golden.

Put chops back in the pot with any juices. Add tomatoes, 2 cups water and tomato paste. Drop in rinds if you have any. Cover pot, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Gently drop meatballs, a few at a time, shaking the pot to make room for the meatballs. Cover all the meatballs, cover pot and simmer for an hour or more. 

To finish sauce, take out chops, remove bones and chop of the meat and add to sauce. Check for seasoning. Ladle sauce over hot pasta and dust with cheese.

Mary’s Meatballs

Yield: makes 26 to 28 meatballs

12 ounces ground beef
4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into tiny cubes (I used challah)
three-quarters cup milk
three-quarters to 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
fine sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, bread and milk. Add cheese, basil, parsley, egg and salt. Mix gently but thoroughly. Form into small meatballs, no larger than one and one-half inches in diameter.

About the author: Former Old Lyme resident Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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