Growing up Italian American, we ate a lot of meatballs. Every Italian family has their own version of what they consider to be the perfect meatball. In our family we had a few versions of meatballs depending on what they were being used for. My grandmother never added dried herbs such as oregano or basil because in her opinion it made the meatballs bitter. And she never, ever used rosemary to her meatballs or pasta sauce reserving that only for roasted meats. She also never added onions or bell peppers, common in American style meatballs. She did however use a large amount of fresh Italian parsley in many of her recipes.
The following recipe was her basic meatball sandwich recipe. For pasta she used this recipe with the addition of two links of Italian sausage (sweet or mild) removed from the casing (½ lb of sausage if buying bulk sausage). Use a high quality ground chuck for best results, freshly ground. Note the step in the recipe removing some of the bread in the middle of the rolls. This is the trick to making a meatball sandwich that is easier to eat without the filling sliding out. Leftover meatballs freeze exceptionally well when packed in freezer bags along with any leftover sauce.
With this recipe and good bread the result will be a meatball sandwich as fine as the ones that made my grandmother famous.
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
4 slices Italian bread, crusts trimmed off
½ cup milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic mashed
½ tsp salt
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
28 oz can plain tomato sauce (I like Hunts)
Italian style sub rolls or a French baguette
¾ lb sliced provolone cheese (regular or smoked)
Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl. Cut the bread into small cubes and place in a smaller bowl with the milk. Mix the bread & milk together till the bread disintegrates. Mash the garlic to a paste with the salt and add to the bread mixture along with the egg and pepper. Now add the entire bread mixture to the ground beef and with hands mix everything together well.
With wet hands form into meatballs the desired size and place in a baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees till lightly browned.
Pour the tomato sauce into the saucepan over low heat and carefully place each meatball into the sauce turning to coat with the sauce. Cook the meatballs over low heat uncovered for about 30 minutes.
To assemble the sandwiches slice the rolls or baguette in half. With fingers, gently pull out a bit of the soft bread in the middle of each side to form a shallow trench being careful to not tear all the through the bread. Place a the meatballs down the center of the roll, spoon a bit of sauce over the meatballs and top with slices of cheese. Place the sandwiches under a preheated broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and serve hot.
Recipe makes enough meatballs to feed 4-6 people depending on the thickness of the bread used.