Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Ralph's Italian Restaurant" - (Italian) Meatballs (from Ralph's Italian Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA)

Date I made this recipe: January 16, 2011

Ralph’s Italian Restaurant – 100 Years and 100 Recipes by Jimmy Rubino, Jr. with Ted Taylor
Published by: Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 0-7833-2060-1; Copyright 2000
Recipe: Meatballs – p. 114

I’ve mentioned before that I watch the Food Network and Top Chef (on Bravo) pretty regularly and one of the newer shows on the Food Network that I like is Food Feuds, hosted by Chef Michael Symon. Make that Iron Chef Symon since he is also one of the Iron Chefs on another show I love, Iron Chef America.

Anyway…the premise of Food Feuds is that Michael travels to a city to decide once and for all which restaurant out of two makes the better (fill in the blank – cake, cupcakes, crab cakes, Philly cheese steaks, etc.). Michael goes to each restaurant, watches them make their product, gives them a list of criteria that he is looking for and then judges which one is better. As much as I adore Michael (who has the cutest laugh ever), I always feel sorry for the “loser.”

In one of the latest episodes, Italian Feud, two Italian restaurants, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant and Villa di Roma, both located in Philadelphia, went up against each other for the “best meatball” title. Villa won. And maybe Villa has a cookbook with their favorite recipes, including meatballs but alas, I do not have it.

But kids, I’ve said before that I have a cookbook for just about everything and would you believe, I have Ralph’s cookbook? And the meatball recipe was in it? And so of course I had to make it.

So let me give you a couple of “fair warnings” right off the bat: These meatballs are best made in the summer when you can vent your kitchen because my kitchen and mud room smelled like garlic oil for days and days. And speaking of garlic oil, this recipe calls for 5 cloves of garlic. I used 4 and I can still smell the garlic every time I open my refrigerator to get leftovers. (I’m half Sicilian but I must have missed out on the garlic gene along the way because I can tolerate it in small doses only and this was no small dose!).

Also, you will find people on both sides of the aisle debating about whether frying the meatballs or baking the meatballs is better. Ralph fries his meatballs (Villa di Roma bakes) and they get a lovely crunchy coating on the outside while still staying moist on the inside. But I’m kind of a baking gal myself and I quit frying the meatballs years ago at the direction of my Aunt Rose who knows everything there is to know about meatballs and more! So when Aunt Rose says “bake,” we bake! And I personally think the flavor is better but that is my palate.

Being particularly lazy the day I made the meatballs, I used a jar of sauce rather than defrost my own, homemade sauce that is still stuck in the freezer. If you want to save time, you can do that as well.

Meatballs – makes 12 to 15
½ loaf Italian bread
Water (enough to dampen the bread)
1 ½ lb. ground beef, veal and pork (mixed)
5 large garlic cloves (minced) – Warning, Warning, Warning! Use 5 cloves at your own risk!!)
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)
1 tablespoon salt
¾ tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley (chopped)
4 cups vegetable oil

Soak bread in water, enough to dampen for 2 hours. Drain the bread of any excess water.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together with fingers, making sure everything is mixed very well.

Start to roll into meatballs a little bigger than the size of a golf ball. (Yet another reason to make these in the summer—my golf bag is a lot handier to get to in order to make the perfect golf ball meatball!). You should get about 12 to 15 meatballs.

Add 4 cups of oil to a medium size fry pan. Heat oil on medium flame. When oil is hot, add 6 or 7 meatballs to the pan. Make sure there is room between meatballs for even cooking. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes. Place meatballs on a brown paper bag to drain off the oil. (Ann’s note: your meatballs will be very brown but no worries—they are still moist and tasty).

1/27/11 - a reader posted a comment that in this episode, Ralph's baked their meatballs and Villa fried them. I knew I should have kept that episode on my DVR a while longer! The ingredients were also different than what is listed here. So thanks for the correction. Maybe Ralph eventually decided to go with the more healthy option of baking their meatballs?? Ann


Anonymous said...

I just watched the Food Feuds episode and wrote down all the ingredients and cooking methods. Ralph's is the one that BAKES their meatballs. Villa di Roma fried them, and their recipe had eggs and mozzarella in them, so this recipe does not match the one on the show that Ralph's made. Maybe back in 2000 they fried but not now. Thanks for the recipe, though!

Anonymous said...

Both my maternal and my paternal grandparents came to America from Italy and I have had meatballs which were fried and those which were cooked in the sauce.

My mother and my family have consistently cooked them in sauce. The notion that frying ensures cooking the meat fully and locks in the flavor simply does not stand up to reality nor the tastebuds. We always added the raw meatballs to a warmed sauce and cooked them on a medium to high heat for 1/2 hour or until they floated to the top.

Don't worry, THEY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IF THEY WERE FROM HEAVEN fully cooked and just as importantly, they will have a more tender texture and better aroma and flavor than fried meat gobs.