Hawkeye’s Tiny Meatballs

Meat balls in the pot

Unless you’re a fan of Turner Classic Movies, you probably don’t know the name of Robert Alda – but you most likely do know his even more famous son, Alan Alda, star of movies & TV, especially the long running TV series, M*A*S*H where he recreated the movie role of Hawkeye Pierce, the fun-loving, prank pulling, but never-the-less talented and dedicated doctor on the Korean battlefront.

Robert Alda, besides being a handsome leading man of his day, was an excellent cook, and with his wife Flora, wrote a delightful cookbook entitled “99 Ways to Cook Pasta”.

Besides being a great recipe source and place for inspiration, the anecdotes of the Alda’s family and friends (many from the world of stage and screen) make this a fabulous read all on its own! I believe it may be out of print by now (if you find it in a Library’s Book Sale or a Yard Sale, buy it!).

So with the 4th Annual Trilussa International Meatball Festival coming up on Sunday, October 27 from 11 to 3 in Cathedral City, CA, this is a “tiny” tip of the toque to meatball lovers everywhere. BTW, Sam Pace, owner of Trilussa and founder of the Meatball Festival has challenged Patrick Evans, Chief Meteorologist of KCBS Local 2 to a Meatball Making contest this coming Monday Night, Oct. 14th at 5:00 pm at Trilussa Restaurant. Cooking With Char will be there; stop by and say hello. Proceeds from this event and the Festival benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Cathedral City and the Soroptimist International of Palm Springs; both organizations help kids in the local communities.

Hawkeye’s Tiny Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef (80/20 preferred)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. grated parmigiano cheese
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, chopped,
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1/2 tsp. dried – fresh is better)
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • pinch of dried rosemary
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 can (approx. 2lb 3 oz) Italian plum tomatoes

By hand, thoroughly combine the ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, egg, parsley, basil and milk. Roll into tiny balls, the size of marbles.** Don’t over-handle or they will be tough.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil; add garlic and sauté until it browns. Don’t let it burn. Remove garlic and discard. Over medium heat, add rosemary and meatballs until pan is full but not crowded. Meatballs should not touch one another, and brown on each side. Add the wine, cover and let cook about 5 minutes.

In a  medium sized bowl, crush tomatoes either with a fork or by hand. Once the meatballs have simmered in the wine, add the tomatoes, stir and add more salt and pepper, if necessary, to taste. Mix well and let cook on medium low heat , covered, for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, so meatballs don’t stick.

Serve over favorite pasta or use in lasagne or meatball sandwiches.

** Depending on how you plan to use them, you may make them larger. If larger, they may need longer initial cooking time and to absorb sauce flavor throughout.

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