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Family Recipe Series: Jessica Rossi

In anticipation of our April 11th Edible World event, Sunday Supper and Family Lore, the First Person Blog will feature the stories and family recipes of Philly food personalities. This was going to an every-other-day happening, but we’ve had so many great foodies writing in with recipes, that you can find recipes every day till our event from the likes of chefs, writers and people who just love eating, making and talking about food and family. Click here to see our other foodie recipes.

I met Jessica Rossi, aka Burger Baroness of Fries with that Shake, at my first Philly Foodblogger Potluck. Philadelphia has a very strong food blogging scene and Jessica is one of our most visible members. You might have already seen her around town, running Burger Club Philly or talking on a food blogging panel. Her grandmother’s cooking was a huge influence on her own love of food and she shares an approximation of her grandmother’s meatballs below.

Want to be like our Philly Foodies? Share a family recipe at our Edible World event! Send your recipe, story and a photo to Karina by April 2nd! Reserve your seat at the event here.

So this is a recipe for meatballs and sauce that I believe is similar to how my adorable Italian grandmother makes them. It isn’t an exact science because my dad just told me what the ingredients were and I don’t have any exact measurements for anything. I especially love making this dish on Sundays because that’s when my family usually ate this with pasta. It always takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen. I grew up in an Italian-American home and it is where my love of food came from. Sundays consisted of going to my grandparent’s house and eating a lot of pasta and meatballs. There would sometimes be braciole or pork thrown in but there were always meatballs.

There was also a joke about the pecorino romano cheese we had on the table. I love cheese and it was well known at the family dinner table that I liked to use a lot of it. At the time my grandparents were having my Uncle Vinnie, who lived in the LA area, ship them big rounds of cheese because we lived in very rural Redding, California where no grocery stores supplied the cheese that we so desperately needed. When my grandfather would see me reaching for the cheese he would warn me, “five dollars a pound.” Now this was many years ago and of course the cheese in question is much more expensive but at the time it was a luxury for my grandparents who were retired and on a fixed income. The “five dollars a pound” became a family joke and one that we even use today. My family also liked to claim that I had a hollow leg because I was able to eat so much pasta and they didn’t know where I put all of it.

Meatballs Like My Grandmother Made

3 (28oz) cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 (6oz) can of tomato paste
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp of any combo of herbs: basil, parsley, oregano (I used dried this time around because I couldn’t find any fresh that looked good)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

I suggest you actually get the sauce started before you make the meatballs and have it on the stove simmering for about two hours before you add in the meatballs.

In a large 6-8 quart pot, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Turn the heat on to medium. When the oil is hot add onions and let them cook for about 5 minutes and then add garlic and tomato paste. Mix the paste in with the onions and garlic and let that cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juices to the pot. Bring it to a boil and then cover it and let it simmer on low for 2 hours.

1 1/2 lbs ground veal
1 1/2 lbs ground pork (you can use any variation of veal, beef and pork)
2 or 2 1/2cups of bread crumbs
1 or 1 1/2 cups of pecorino, grated
6 eggs, beaten
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bunch of Italian parsley, chopped finely
Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of your skillet

In a large bowl combine meat, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, garlic and parsley and mix by hand. You can also season it with some salt and pepper though I find the cheese to add enough saltiness to the meatballs. Form into balls, about the size of a golf ball.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil until almost smoking. Add the meatballs, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook until deep golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Once the meatballs are browned on the outside and cooked on the inside, add them to the sauce. I usually let them cook in the sauce on low for another hour or so.

– Jessica Rossi

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