Recipe: New Old-School Meatballs

Recently I’ve been fascinated by the Meatball Shop. I’ve never actually eaten there, because there’s always a line out the door, and every time the owners open a new branch, an additional line forms out of an additional door, with no impact on still crowded original Meatball Shop. And they don’t take reservations, which to me is not a comforting quality for a comfort food place. Still. The place is insanely popular.

What is it about meatballs? Why are they so craveable, so nearly universally likeable? And though Italian, so American? Italians in Italy don’t care nearly as much about meatballs as we do. I’m not Italian-American, but I like the idea of eating meatballs at home, Sunday dinner style. But they have to be the right meatballs: not too fancy, not too plain. An Italian-American friend made them for me once with seltzer water and seasoned bread crumbs. They had to be the kind of bread crumbs sold in a can.

When trying to recreate this dish, I wanted to use seltzer water, which makes the meatballs light and airy, but couldn’t justify using bread crumbs from a can when there are so many good fresh bread crumbs available now. Nor did I want to go the bread-soaked-in-milk route: that’s too fancy. How to combine the best of old-school techniques with the best of new-school fresh ingredients? This is the recipe I came up with, based on recipes by the Franks of Frankies Spuntino and somebody’s Aunt Fannie, who gave her recipe to the Food Network.


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