The world is shaped like a meatball. And the meatball is eaten all over the world.
Little ones float in Italian or German wedding soups. The biggest, called a “lion’s head,” beefs up Chinese cooking. There are meatballs stuffed with anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, feta, bacon. They’re fried, boiled, steamed, stewed, baked, grilled and roasted. They appear in sandwiches, on pizzas and on their own. You’ll find them made with everything from lobster and lamb to mashed potatoes and reindeer. There are vegetarian meatballs, too. But despite updates, trends and very new recipes, when you think about meatballs, you think about tomato sauce and spaghetti — and, maybe, “Lady and the Tramp.”
The classic Italian-American meatball that goes into the Sunday sauce has been simmering for more than a century. “It’s just a kind of ‘I love you dish,'” said celebrity chef and Italian cooking guru Lidia Bastianich. “It’s economical. The meatballs themselves are flavorful and easy to eat, doused with the sauce. And then, you have the pasta. It’s one of those win-win situations.”
It’s no wonder that at restaurants plain and fancy all over Long Island, spaghetti and meatballs continues to rank among top-sellers. A new Patchogue restaurant dedicated to the spheres, That Meetball Place, opened late last year to near-instant popularity. Yet, as creative as its chef, John Hesse, can get — there’s a coconut shrimp ball, a ginger rice salmon ball and a chicken parm ball — the biggest seller continues to be the classic beef-pork-veal meatball. As Hesse opines: “People can connect with that the most.”
Here are some spaghetti-and-meatball dishes that we’ve eaten recently, each possessing its own secret for success.