Meatballs are a basic food in an Italian-American household. Accompanied by pasta and tomato sauce, you have a meal fit for a king. Travel to Italy and order spaghetti and meatballs. Oh no, it is not on the menu!
Can you imagine? Why? The scrumptious dish did not stem from Italy.
Italy’s meatballs are called polpettes and are not associated with spaghetti. Made from any meat or fish (not limited to ground beef), the polpettes are about the size of a golf ball. You are thinking, “Then where did spaghetti and meatballs originate”? It all happened when the Italians immigrated to the United States somewhere between 1880 and 1920.
In Italy, the Italians were very poor, so their meatballs were not necessarily made of meat. It was mostly bread and less meat. The filling was mostly scrap-meat or fish.
When they moved to the United States, they were able to work so they could afford more food for the family. Mama started to put more meat in the meatball and spiced it up in her individual way. From then on, the Italian-American meatball came into being.
Debate: How to cook a Meatball?
Of course, there is not much the Italians do without debate. How shall we concoct our newly created food, the meatball? Hum, yes, this actually became a controversy within Italian households. The way an individual mama makes meatballs is the CORRECT way.
You are asking yourself how many ways can there be? I will tell you.
- Fry them in a frying pan with olive oil and add to the sauce.
- Throw them in the boiling sauce after molding.
- Sear them in a frying pan with olive oil and add to the sauce to cook through.
- Bake them.
The healthiest way is to bake them, so that is how we are going to make the meatballs today. That way, they will be brown and cooked through.
The Origin of Italian Sauce
The sauce came into existence because in America there were ready-made cans of tomatoes available in stores. Mama was smart and knew that the pairing of meatballs with sauce would be a hit. Depending on which part of Italy these immigrants lived, the term could be “gravy” rather than sauce.
The Dawn of Spaghetti and Meatballs
The Italians were becoming Italian-American, and everyone knows that Americans love carbs, especially in the shape of pasta. Spaghetti was readily available in the United States; thus, spaghetti and meatballs were born!
Fun fact: The initiation of pasta came from Marco Polo when he returned from China in 1295. He called it lasagna which means noodles. By 1400 pasta in its ancient form was being produced commercially.
Linguine with Turkey Meatballs
This recipe is my version of Giada De Laurentiis’ creation. The taste of these turkey meatballs is delectable. Giada uses pancetta in the meatball mixture. I do not include pancetta in this one. If you want to, brown 2 ounces of pancetta with the onion and olive oil in the first step.
My other substitution is zoodles rather than linguine. This makes the dish guilt-free.
Linguine with Turkey Meatballs and Quick Sauce
- 3 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin
- ½ yellow onion finely diced
- 1 lb. ground turkey preferably dark meat
- ½ cup Romano cheese grated
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ¾ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 3 zucchini spiraled
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 28 oz. can San Marzano Tomatoes drained and cut into pieces
- 2 whole garlic cloves peeled
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- ⅓ cup fresh basil finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425°F
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix the onion with the other meatball ingredients.
- Form the turkey mixture into balls. Place them on a foil covered baking pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cook zoodles according to package directions or place homemade ones in the microwave for 1 minute on high.
- In a medium pan, warm ¼ cup olive oil
- Add the tomatoes, garlic clove, salt and pepper. Add the cooked meatballs and the cooked zoodles and mix.
- Arrange on a serving plate and top with Romano cheese.
When I tasted this dish, my eyes opened wide and I had to say “mmmmm.” You can make yours with linguine. Just follow the directions on the box. This is a meal that pairs well with a nice red wine like pinot noir.
I thank Giada for inspiring this dish. I hope you enjoy!