Tomorrow is National Meatball Day
Let’s face it: The Meatball is truly a gift. Beef, Pork, Veal, Chicken, Lamb, and Turkey all make a great meatball. Lately, vegans have started making vegetable meatballs. I have yet to try VeganBalls. But boy do I love meatballs. That’s why there are so many recipes for them on Chewing The Fat. We’ve literally traveled the world to find great meatballs. And it hasn’t been hard. Meatballs are part of every culture. There are meatball recipes dating from 211 B.C. when the Chinese first made theirs. And Kofte, the oval Turkish Meatball, predates written history. Even Swedish Meatballs are said to be of Turkish origin. But don’t tell that to a Swede. When the official Twitter account of Sweden proclaimed their Turkish origin, Swedes rose up en masse in defense of their meatballs. The government quickly responded that Swedish cuisine had many influences.
And you thought Italians had a lock on meatballs…
Think frikadellers, kofteh, albondigas! Every area of the world has its meatballs. But to give Italians their due, you can actually find meatballs in the Roman recipe collection “Apicius” dating from the 1st century A.D. They appear several times. They extoll different cooking techniques– baking, and frying among them– as well as various seasonings and spices. And Italian Americans do have a lock on the American meatball. Our familiar plate of spaghetti and meatballs is pure Italian-Americana. The dish is almost unheard of in Italy itself. In Italy, meatballs or polpette are a stand-alone dish and much smaller than the meatballs most Americans are used to.
Bringing Spaghetti and Meatballs to America
Waves of Italian immigrants brought meatballs to America. Between 1880 and 1920, millions left Italy in search of land and freedom. They came from Abruzzi, Sicily, Calabria, bringing their recipes with them. Meatballs prepared by Abruzzi Italians more likely contained lamb. Sicilians incorporated pine nuts in theirs. But the dish that most closely resembles the American meatball is beef Ragu, a classic which originated in Naples and Bologna. They soon discovered that meat was relatively inexpensive in America. They made their ‘polpette’ from affordable ground beef and they made them bigger. To bulk up their meals, they added a generous helping of pasta topped with a sauce made with canned tomatoes. This was both cheap and easy to cook, a dish born of both inventiveness and resourcefulness.
Here are our Ten Most Popular Meatball Recipes from Around The World…Just click on the photo and go to the recipe.
(If you don’t find one that you like, there are 5 more on the website…just search under “Meatballs”.)