Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
A few weeks ago I attended an art show/wine tasting at Tania Dibbs’ Big Sky Studio on the mall. Tania lived for four years in one of my back sheds, then an unknown artist and now one of international renown. Tania just lost her lease if you know of a place.
Tania and her then-gallery director, Angie Marasco, laid out a big feed for the guests, and I made a pig of myself gobbling “Angie’s Meatballs” from a crock pot of thick marinara sauce.
One thing led to another: I begged for the recipe, Angie e-mailed directions including a lot of “palmfuls” and “pinches,” then we met in my kitchen where she gave me a live demonstration.
Angie told me that her mother, Soni (short for Sonya) was the originator of the meatball recipe, and that some of her best memories were of cooking with her mom, who had a slew of health problems and had almost been lost when Angie was a little girl, but who is still ticking, recently with a new kidney.
In the days when they were making the meatballs – her dad’s favorite (he’s still ticking, too) – they used hamburger, but Angie gave up red meat for a while, used ground turkey instead, and found that she liked it even better.
Angie, funny and smart (in real life she’s a civil engineer with a degree from Carnegie Mellon), takes credit for the marinara sauce recipe, which is where you should begin.
Angie’s Marinara Sauce
In a Cuisinart (or by hand) finely chop one red onion and six big cloves of garlic. Cover the bottom of a pot with a thick layer of olive oil, then saute the onions and garlic together until the mixture starts bubbling and “getting wet.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it does get “wet.”
Add a small can of tomato paste, stir in quickly and mind that it doesn’t scorch.
Add two 28-ounce cans of Muer Glen organic tomatoes (available in City Market, top shelf), one diced and one ground and peeled.
Add three whole bay leaves, one tablespoon parsley flakes, one tablespoon basil, one teaspoon oregano, a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes, one and a quarter tablespoons of kosher salt and one teaspoon of black pepper. Cook for at least a half hour, with the lid canted, stirring occasionally. Don’t let it burn up.
The Muer Glen tomatoes were surprisingly different, much thicker than the usual canned tomatoes – Angie says that makes a big difference, as does the thick-grained kosher salt (don’t stint on the salt).
In another bowl, place one standard package of ground turkey (1.25 pounds.), no more than 85 percent lean (or, ditto, hamburger).
Mix in with your hands, one egg, one half cup of grated Romano cheese (comes in a round container in the refrigerated cheese section), one half cup Italian bread crumbs, one-eighth teaspoon black pepper, one teaspoon kosher salt, one tablespoon parsley flakes, two big cloves of chopped garlic (Angie Cuisinarted eight cloves of garlic and saved some out for the meatballs before adding the onion), one tablespoon of water.
Fry up a test meatball to check the taste, then roll into walnut sized balls and place on a Pam-sprayed cookie sheet.
Place in preheated 350-degree oven for four minutes, then turn them over. I knew I was dealing with a real cook when Angie just stuck her hand in the oven and flip-flip-flipped them with her fingers.
Fish the bay leaves out of the sauce. Angie then beat the sauce with a hand-held emersion blender, but you could also blend the canned tomatoes before you start, or leave them as they are, but do take out the bay leaves.
Drop the meatballs into the pot of hot sauce (you can use a crock pot as well) and cook them all together for at least a half hour, the longer the better if you don’t burn the bottom.
Serve as hors d’oeuvres with toothpicks, as a main dish, with pasta or whatever. Make your meatballs larger or smaller, take it from here.
The best part of the afternoon was hearing Angie’s stories about her family, her warm memories of cooking with her mom (when they made the secret chocolate surprise Christmas cookies her mom made Angie and her sister strip before leaving the kitchen to avoid trails of flour) and the feeling of a lot of love in that house.
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