It’s near the end of summer – and it’s really, really hot.
These past few days have been very hot and humid in Chicagoland, and work in the kitchen has been unbearable. It feels like the whole house is a melting pot of simmering, sticky heat, and the air conditioning in full swing hardly makes any difference. The days start off with a glorious sunrise and a cool wind which promises mild temperatures – however, that is never the case. Soon, the temperature starts climbing, and everybody frantically runs for shelter from the heat. On this weather, a glass of cold water and a shaded area are my best friends.
I wanted to give cooking a break and to live off panini for a few days, but then I bought some ground pork from the local grocery store, and I had to reconsider my plan. The meat looked beautiful and I did not want to freeze it, so in the end I decided to endure the heat in the kitchen for a noble purpose: to make meatballs. I wanted to recreate an old recipe which was passed on to me by my mother and my mother-in-law. It’s a quick and easy to make dish, in which the slight heaviness of the meat is balanced out by the freshness of the parsley, used in copious amounts. It’s simple and delicious, as any summer food should be.
1lb ground pork
1 whole egg
3 slices of white bread
1 small (8oz) can tomato sauce
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp cornstarch
Approximately 1 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 bay leaves
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Mix the meat with the egg, the chopped garlic and half the chopped parsley. Place the slices of bread in a bowl with cold water and let the bread soak the water for a few moments, then squeeze the bread to get the water out. Incorporate the bread into the meat, egg, garlic and parsley mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Make meatballs using your hands, and carefully place them in the pan one by one.
Brown the meatballs uniformly over a medium-low heat. Add more oil if needed. Be careful: the oil in the pan will be very hot!
When the meatballs are browned remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl or on a plate. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
To make the sauce, place 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and the tomato sauce in a pan and bring to simmer. Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of cold water and stir slowly to make a paste. When the paste is homogeneous and has no lumps you can add it to the sauce. Stir the sauce to thicken it. Add 1/2 cup water and salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, add the bay leaves. Leave the sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes.
One by one, place the meatballs into the sauce and let it simmer over a medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add more water if needed (the meatballs must be 3/4 covered with the sauce).
Add the remaining chopped parsley at the end, and serve the meatballs straight from the pan, alongside fresh Italian bread, warm polenta or pasta:
Served straight from the pan, the meatballs keep a rustic, eye-pleasing appearance. And once you dig into the pan, you’re hooked: the meatballs are nourishing from the meat and light from the parsley, and the addition of the bread makes them moist and tender. The tomato sauce is refreshing and aromatic from the bay leaves, and the parsley adds fitting floral notes to the overall dish.
Baking the meatballs is healthier because there is no frying involved, however this time I have decided to stick to my original recipe, which does not mention baking. This is great because turning on the oven when it’s hot outside is the last thing I want to do!
This dish puts me in a good mood just by looking at it, and to me this is the perfect food to end summer on a high. Thankfully, summer is not ready to leave Chicagoland yet, and its last bursts of heat are here to remind us that there is still time to get cooking.
There is still time to create some great dishes this summer 🙂