When it comes to Italian food, which is what I cook most of the time, my preferences lean slightly towards the middle and northern ends of the boot — Roman classics, simple Tuscan preparations of vegetables and bread-laden soups, Bolognese pastas, Venetian chicories. I’m half-Italian and from the New York area, so I’ve had plenty of “gravy” in my life, and these styles of Italian cuisine tend to offer greater novelty and interest.
However, the culinary appeal of the Southern Italian diaspora is undeniable, and I love a good meatball in red sauce as much as anybody else. (Of course, there are incredibly rich and sophisticated offerings from the South as well; the multifaceted cuisine of Sicily is, I think, among the most interesting in the world.)
I find that the humble Italian meatball is one of those dishes that are vastly more satisfying when you make it yourself, particularly if you’re like me and have mainly eaten them in Long Island pizzerias. Making meatballs is fun, to begin with, and at home you can perfect their size, seasonings, and level of moisture (all critical components). This is a recipe adapted from one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants, Frankies 457 Spuntino, and it’s perfect for home cooking. The meatballs are very simply prepared, baked in the oven, and finished in a warm bath of minimalist, garlic-studded marinara. I like to pair them with a creamy polenta, which I think is superior to pasta as vehicle for meatballs; however, you make the call in your own cucina.
Note: the original Frankies recipe includes pine nuts and raisins; in the interest of being the most basic possible recipe, this one does not, but those are delicious inclusions if you’re up for that.