my father--
who loved Italians
grandma's meatballs
My father was a Jew who wanted to be an
Italian. that was the burning regret of his life.
He loved Italians and everything Italian: the
food, the music, the art, the Mafia. he spent
much more time hanging out with his Italian
friends--the guys from the west side of
Buffalo over at Spanos on Chippewa where
they could be found at all hours drinking
coffee and to speak  endlessly of this, that
and the other--sports, women,  clothes, etc.

There were always some new suits or terrific
hats or pairs of shoes  to be had at a discount
via a recently hijacked truck. The greatest
thing you could say to my father was: you/re
a Jew? I thought you were Italian!

But he wasnt Italian and could never be so he
did the next best thing: he married one.
Normally one of the things you can expect at
the very least if you marry an Italian woman
is for a decent plate of spaghetti to make its
appearance on the dinner table from time to

But my father, poor guy, had managed to fall
in love with a paradox: an Italian who hated
food. My mother sat down to eat and these
were her preferences: cigarettes, coffee,
bacon.  This was her diet that she thrived on  
until the end of her life--age 89.

The list of foods she maintained a safe
distance from was endless and at the top
were tomatoes. its a problem if your husband
loves Italian food.

But she was a good cook--a terrific cook. she
made things like fried  chicken, roast pork,
swiss steak fried potatoes with onions and
loved to bake: pies, cakes, cookies, etc.
Every Christmas she baked boxes of cookies
for friends.  But in the pasta dept—forget it.
It was the sight and smell of tomatoes
simmering in a pot that made her gag. My
father would become desperate for a decent
meatball or plate of ravioli and pay a visit on
his sister in law, or before she died, my

Later on when I was living in LA and he and
my mother had relocated to Yucca Valley, a
desert community north of Palm Springs, I
would visit on the weekend and bring with
me a quart of sauce and jar of meatballs.  I
used my aunts recipe, handed down from my
grandmother and god knows how far back
this one goes.

That is the one I present here with some
minor inclusions by way of an Italian
housewife friend in Buffalo. You can take it
from me: if its Italian food and someone
from Buffalo is behind it recipe-wise--you
may relax your mind.


There are two ways to make meatballs: firm
and not so firm. I prefer the not so firm and
to achieve the desired texture I add extra
bread crumbs.  My grandmother didn’t use
breadcrumbs. She baked her own bread and
took two slices that she soaked in milk and to
squeeze out the  excess milk and mix into
the meat.

Ingredients (10-12 meatballs)

1 lb ground  beef
1 beaten egg.
2 slices white bread or a roll—French, Kaiser,
egg, etc
1/2 cup breadcrumbs if desired
2 tablespoons parm.  cheese
1 tbl/spoon  ketchup
1 t/spoon nutmeg
I t/spoon minced raisens (optional)

To prepare:

Soak bread in milk or half/half and squeeze
out excess.

Beat one egg and in a large bowl add all
ingredients. Mix well and form into balls, not
too big 1”-1 1/2” dia

Brown meatballs in skillet with butter and
Olive oil

Brown on two sides, then a third side.
Transfer to paper towels and drain


1 large can tomatoes
1 large can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 lb pork bones or pork butt
Two cloves garlic, peeled but dont chop
1/2 onion diced
2 T/spoons chopped fresh basil
1 t/spoon sugar (optional—this is a Sicilian
touch and, according to the northern Italians,
the ultimate proof of the savagery of the
salt/pepper to taste,  pinch red pepper flakes

To prepare:

In a skillet sauté onions, garlic cloves in olive

add tomatoes, simmer until tomatoes are
soft and mash with potato masher.

Pour this into 8 quart pot.

braise pork bones or butt and add to pot, add
tomato  puree, tomato paste, salt/ pepper to
taste and pinch of red pepper flakes

add 1 quart water—use empty tomato can

Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally
for 2 hours. Add more water to thin sauce if

Add meatballs to sauce 20 minutes before
serving. My grandmother liked to add a
couple hardboiled eggs to the sauce (another
Sicilian touch—that remains a mystery. But I
do it because she did it.  It’s a nice touch if
the yolk of the egg is still a little gooey)

Buon appetito!