One of my favorite scenes in The Godfather involved Peter Clemenza (played by the late Richard S. Castellano), Capo to Don Vito Corleone, preparing his meatball sauce for a bunch of mob guys in the kitchen. Clemenza gives a brief tutorial to Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) because “you never know; you might have to cook for 20 guys someday.”
I loved that scene; it was funny, practical, and portrayed this character who could kill with a garrote wire and still cook a great sauce. I watched it on YouTube last week, and got a craving for meatballs and spaghetti. Of course, I’m not gonna prepare it Clemenza’s way (that dude’s a legend). Instead I decided to use a mozzarella-stuffed meatball recipe I improvised several years ago.
- Ground beef (4.25 pounds or 1.93 Kg)
- Fresh Garlic (two bulbs)
- Rosemary Leaves (one tablespoon or 14ml)
- Basil Leaves (one tablespoon or 14ml)
- Sea Salt (one tablespoon or 14ml)
- Pepper (one tablespoon or 14ml)
- Breadcrumbs (about ¾ cup or 177.4ml)
- Two Eggs
- Mozzarella Cheese (two 8 ounce packages or 226.8g packages)
- Tomato Sauce from a jar (two 24 ounce jars or 680g jars)
- Pasta (Linguine, two boxes 16 ounces or 454g)
- Olive Oil (two tablespoons or 29.57ml)
Do yourself a huge favor: separate and peel the two garlic bulbs the evening before or hours before you actually need them. I’ve discussed before how much of a hassle it is to separate and peel garlic, but out of principle I cannot use pre-diced garlic from a jar. I’d feel like Anthony Bourdain would experience a pain in his soul while on location in Bangkok or Rio de Janeiro, if I did that. I’ve read both of his books and watched both of his TV series. I can’t disappoint the man. So separate and peel the garlic and store it in a sealed container until you actually need it.
Okay, preheat your oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.4 degrees Celsius).
Next, take your grounded beef and place it in a large glass bowl. You don’t necessarily need 4.25 pounds of grounded beef, but as I’ve noted before in other recipe blog postings, I once lived in a group house in college, where I cooked for my three housemates and good friend who lived next door, so ever since I’ve always cooked for five people. Hey, at least I’ll always have leftovers.
So, you’re mixing your Rosemary, your Basil, sea salt, pepper, egg yolks, and breadcrumbs.
As you probably know, the breadcrumbs and eggs act as a binding agent for the meatballs. As for the seasoning go with what works best for you. If I had fresh basil, I would totally use it. I’m beholden to the Church of Bourdain, but only by so much: garlic – always fresh, basil – fine getting it from a spice rack, unless I had a basil garden.
Okay, after getting the meat started, I opened the mozzarella and sliced those into hearty chunks. Basically, about a tablespoon-sized wedge.
See this pan? This pan is your friend; you two are gonna do some fairly righteous magic.
Picking a sauce is like telling your friend their future spouse ain’t gonna work: they gotta find that out on their own. I’m partial to Bertolli; however, I’m sure there are readers who have grandparents who can prepare an authentic sauce (or gravy?). Well, good for you. I applaud your ability to cook from scratch. I get my sauce from the jar tree, out back.
Pour a bit of sauce in the pan.
Now you can dice the hell outta that garlic you separated and peeled the evening before.
So now take a cube of mozzarella and form a meatball around it. It’ll take a bit of patience, but don’t rush it. One by one, cup the meatball in your palm and push in the mozzarella with your thumb. Hum a song about love, heartache, your all-staff meeting on Monday morning. And before you know it, you’ll have balls, amico. Balls.
This is the part where you’ll sprinkle the diced garlic. Oh, and use the second jar of sauce to cover all the meatballs.
Covered in aluminum foil, pop those bad boys in the oven for about 40 minutes. While your meatballs are cooking, may I recommend a glass of Breckenridge Spiced Rum, produced by the Breckenridge Distillery, in (you guessed it) Breckenridge, Colorado. Pour a couple of glasses and invite a friend over. Discuss something non-controversial, like climate change or access to affordable healthcare.
Okay, your meatballs should be done by this point. Get your pasta boiling.
Notice how I didn’t tell you how to boil pasta? I did that because I respect you. I’m not pedantic, and I refuse to write pedantic recipes on this blog.
And voila, your mozzarella-stuffed meatballs and linguine. Complement this with a glass of red wine or beer of your choice. This makes a great dinner for five, a dinner date for two, or a nice meal on your own. Either way, eat up and watch The Godfather with someone you care about. Enjoy, and more importantly, be kind to each other.