Grandma’s Meatballs

I haven’t been cooking a lot, which is a little odd, because it’s been rainy and pretty cold here in Los Angeles and that is the best time to cook things because cooking implies heat and heat is something we usually have here and when we do, I usually want something not hot.  Except for steak. I can always be talked into steak.


But last night I was in the mood for meatballs so I decided to make them.  I also remember I was going to tell you how I make them, which is to say, how my Grandma taught me to make them, but then I realized I had already given the recipe out on Facebook, which sparked an all out war between my friends, Italian or not, on whether the accompanying topping for meatballs and pasta is called sauce or gravy.

Months later, much like all of the Trump “discussions”, the war continues.

So I went back into Facebook to find my original recipe, but this time I am adding the photos I took last night, so now you can all follow the bouncing meatball.  The blue type is from the original post, with some editing of the use of the word f*ck, because this might be read by people other than my FB friends and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about my use of profanity.  Well, profanity in public, anyway.  The regular type is notes I added when I wrote this.

It began with an innocent request from my friend Robin Cooper.


screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-8-32-01-am If it not a bother can you share your recipe?

December 6, 2016 at 5:33pm



It’s Grandma’s so nothing is really measured. 

Get some stale Italian bread (you can use bread crumbs from the store if you’re not Italian)


(Last night I used a stale roll I had in my breadbasket. Sometimes I just don’t have a loaf of Italian Bread laying around. When I’m desperate, I will toast white bread and crumble it, but it is never quite the same)


Crumble it in a bowl.


(And by crumble I mean just smush it between your hands. There will be large bits and small bits. Don’t try to make them all the same size.   If you want standardized breadcrumbs, just go buy frozen meatballs and be done with it.)


 Add enough water to moisten.  

img_3435(I use a handful of water at a time. If I make a small amount of meatballs, it’s usually one handful. If I make more, it’s 2 handfuls and maybe a flick or water. A flick is when you wet your hand and flick what’s on it in the bowl.  My Jewish friends call this a schpritz, but that’s a little too much water and what do they know about making meatballs, anyway.)


Grab about a pound of chop meat. Not the lean kind. 

If you have some (not a lot) of sausage meat or ground pork throw it in. 

If you have some veal (f*ck that – who has veal lying around in the fridge anymore? Don’t buy it, it’s too expensive for meatballs)


(I thought I had a lonely Italian Sausage in the fridge but I did not.  If you want people to think you went through the expense and trouble of adding pork and you don’t have any, just add a little fennel seed, which you should have in your pantry.  Then it will taste like you added pork which is probably good enough for your non-Italian guests.)


img_3437(I usually make a hamburger patty first because a pound of chopped meat makes too many meatballs for me and I hate anything that’s frozen, even homemade frozen meatballs, so I make a hamburger to have the next night.  If I have to freeze it, it’s ok because I am used to eating frozen hamburger patties here in the United States)


Add some salt & pepper. 

img_3439 img_3441

(I know “some” is a relative term, so I took a photo to show you. I have small hands because I am short. If you have big hands, find someone in the house who doesn’t and have them add the salt & pepper )


Add some crushed garlic. 


(Last night I couldn’t find the big knife to crush the garlic.  Italians just take a big knife and whomp the clove with it. I used to have a garlic press but that just took too long and was a pain in the ass to clean, so I just sliced and diced it into teeny tiny pieces.  It tastes exactly the same.)


Add some cheese – grated Romano or Parmesan. (Don’t ever ever ever use the stuff in the green can. I don’t know what the f*ck is in there but it’s not cheese)


(We had the best Italian market in Glen Cove called Razzanos. I’m pretty sure it’s still there. There was always a very large plastic bag of grated cheese from Razzanos in our refrigerator. This is from Ralph’s supermarket from some guy named Murray.  Not an Italian name but the cheese was grated fresh and  pretty good.)


Add some basil. You can use dried but fresh is better. 

img_3442(Once I got really lazy and bought the stuff in the tube.  It was a mistake I will never make again.  When I read the ingredients, the first one listed was Cilantro.  Cilantro is Mexican, so my meatballs tasted more like Albondigas, which I hate because although they look like meatballs, they are not really meatballs.)


If you’re not Italian you can put in some oregano. Italian’s know oregano is not Italian it is Greek but non- Italians think it is and expect to at least smell it. Don’t disappoint them. 

(I just don’t use oregano, so I didn’t take a photo.  I know they use it on Pizza and I guess there it is acceptable, but this is about meatballs so I just leave it out)

Throw in an egg. Yes, an egg – you’ll thank me later. 

img_3447(I hate eggs, so making meatballs is a bit annoying to me because I have to go an buy a dozen, or if I’m lucky and they have them, a half dozen and then I have to do something with the rest of the eggs. I used to make Boxed Brownies, but now I don’t like the taste of the Box. It’s a problem, but it’s a First World Problem so I don’t mind so much.)


Mix everything together- not too much because it makes the meatballs tough. A light hand – like something you would do with men’s meatballs. If you do that kind of thing. If you do do that kind of thing you’re a puttana. It’s where the dish Puttanesca comes from. It means slut. Puttanesca is anything left in a slut’s refrigerator on Sunday. Usually nothing except martini olives & cheese. (So now you know)

(I didn’t take a photo because my hands were full of meatball mix and I am assuming you know enough about cooking to know how to mix with your hands.  If you are the kind that wears gloves when you cook, then I can almost guarantee you that your meatballs are terrible.  Cooking is love and love comes from the heart through the hands.  Wearing gloves limits the love.  Ask any man.)

Put some olive oil in a pan. Don’t use vegetable oil and don’t ever call it evo. Only Rachel Ray calls it that & she’s very far removed from being Italian. I also heard she’s a slut. Heat the oil. Even non-Italians can do that. 

(This is where my friend, Robin Cooper chimed in. I don’t know why she thought I called her a slut.  To be clear, I called Rachel Ray a slut, which might be a mistake because I’m sure she has far more many attorneys than I do, but I included it because maybe someone from the Food Channel or SNL is reading this and I think it would be a great idea too, unless SNL wants me to tape this in NY, which is a problem because my horse lives here. But thanks, Robin)



Suzy- maybe you should video tape this and do a spot on the food/travel channel or SNL . Being a Jew I didn’t know about oregano being Greek and not Italian. Hmm. Thanks for giving out the recipe and calling me a slut (puttana). 

December 6, 2016 at 7:02pm

Slice garlic so thin it dissolves in the the pan before burning. Burnt garlic tastes like crap. If you can’t slice it that thin do the best you can but watch it and take it out before it starts to brown. If you can barely smell it, take it out. It infuses the oil. If you can smell it, it’s too late but if you’re not Italian you won’t know the difference so just take it out as soon as you can. 

img_3451(The scene in Goodfellas when they’re in prison slicing garlic with a razor always confused me.  No one in my family ever used a razor blade to cut garlic.  We are Sicilian and know our way around sharp knives. Still, I just loved that movie.)


This is when my friend, Jeff Quattrone jumped in.


The garlic infused oil is a nice touch.

December 7, 2016 at 4:16am


We never called it infused. We are Italian. Infused is a word for non-Italians. We just threw it in the pan and swirled it around for a bit. Not too long. Then we pulled it out with a spoon. Infused is a word trendy foodies use.

December 7, 2016 at 4:32am

I mean, he’s Italian, so he should have known.  Jeff is a wonderful artist and has spent a long time and a lot of money trying to become a citizen of and get back to a country his relatives (and mine, for that matter), spent a long time and a lot of money trying to leave.  That was when you came on a little boat across a big ocean and didn’t emigrate using American Express  Frequent Flier Miles.  I always think of myself as Italian until I meet an Italian who’s actually from Italy.  Then I know I’m just an American with an Italian last name.  But I still know how to cook, so I guess my DNA is still Italian.

Roll the meat gently (we’ve covered this already) into meatballs. 

Not ping pong balls, not tennis balls, not the size those weird Swedish people make. Don’t make them too big, they’ll burn before the inside cooks. Don’t make them too small unless you’re Swedish. 


img_3448(Now I feel a little bad saying that about The Swedes after all that trouble they’ve had, or didn’t have, or whatever.   Maybe to make up for that, I’ll go to Ikea today and buy something to put together.)



When the oil is hot put them in the pan. 

Brown them on all sides. All sides. It’s a ball so there’s a lot of turning involved. If you have to pee while cooking make sure there’s someone in the house so you can yell from the bathroom “somebody turn the meatballs”. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. 

img_3454(If you have to pee when you’re cooking them and there’s nobody else there to turn them, you just have to hold it.  After all of this, there is no taking them off the heat or running to the bathroom room for just a minute.  This is the critical time and will make or break your balls, which is where I think the expression came from)


When they’re cooked (& you really really have to be Italian for this because I’m not there to tell you that they’re done) take them out of the pan and put them on a plate lined with some paper towels (any brand will do – if you want to be Italian use a paper bag that has been torn open. Brown. Only use a brown paper bag. White bags don’t work. If you are Italian you’d know this)

img_3452(I’m pretty sure when my Grandma taught me how to make these, there was no such thing as paper towels.  Maybe there was, but we never used them to wipe up anything.  We used some kind of dishrag or someone’s old white t-shirt ripped into squares.  I still have a hard time using paper towels for anything other than wiping up dog pee-pee when it rains and they are too lazy to go outside.)

While the meatballs are hot sprinkle some salt over them. Eat one just to taste. Slap the hand of anyone else that tries to grab one before dinner. Don’t turn your back on your meatballs- those people can be very sneaky.
Well, that’s about all I remember. Mine were delicious I hope yours are too, you slut!

December 6, 2016 at 7:12pm

img_3459(Well, I guess I did call Robin a slut. Sorry about that. Not that she took offense at that.  She was more pissed off that I told her she was crazy for living so close to Canada.  But that was last year, before the election.  This year she is well positioned and her house could be part of the New Underground Railroad. )


I know I’m going to catch some flack for that remark, for a number of reasons, but I don’t care because I know that everyone secretly wants to be Italian, because we have more fun and more love and more life then any other group of people.  That’s why so many people remodeled their kitchens in a Tuscan Theme.  But as I told my other friend Rita Zelig –


Rita, you can put kittens in an oven but that don’t make them biscuits. Now that you live in the South you should know that.

But that is another story for another time.








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