It was my Italian friend and an excellent cook, who inspired me to make this meal. We were over for dinner and she made string beans in the tomato sauce as a side dish. It really surprised me. I would never thought of such a combination.
But when I tried it, I loved it. Beans were not overcooked, nice and crisp and with the marinara sauce, it was just whole different meal. Next time I tried it myself, combined with meatballs and perfetto! Mamma’s Meatballs were born!
Mamma’s Meatballs and String Beans in Tomato Sauce
2 lb. ground meatball mix (pork, beef, veal, turkey or chicken)
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 Portuguese roll (could be day or two old)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (as needed)
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped parsley for garnish
½ lb string beans
Take your meatball mixture from the fridge and place in large bowl. Let it bring to a room temperature. Cut Portuguese roll into pieces and place in a small bowl. Cover pieces with milk and let it soak.
Heat olive oil in frying pan and cook chopped onion, stirring until soft, on medium heat. Add chopped garlic and cook an additional 30 sec. Set aside and let cool.
Season your meatball mixture with salt and pepper or use your favorite meatball seasoning mix if you prefer. Add whole egg and work it into mixture with your hands. Add breadcrumbs as needed. Add cheese.
Drain your roll from the milk and squeeze in hand to get most of the moisture out. Mash in your hands into smaller pieces and work into your mixture. (This is my mom’s trick that keeps meatballs tasty and moist). Add your cooled onions and garlic and work into your mix by hand until evenly distributed.
Preheat your oven to 375 F and prepare baking sheet. Form small meatballs in your hands and place it on dry baking sheet until all the mixture is used. Try to make even balls so they cook evenly.
Place full sheet in the oven and let it roast for about 25- 30 minutes – depends on size of your meatballs. When they start developing darker brown crust, they are done. Do not leave them in oven for a long time, they will dry out. Not sure if they are cooked through? Take one out and cut it in half. Meatball shouldn’t be raw in the middle.
In the meantime, cut tips from your string beans and bring water in the large pan into boil. Add salt. Blanche your beans for about 1 minute in boiling water and take it out. Let it rest in colander.
Warm up your favorite marinara sauce (or make your own from scratch) and add roasted meatballs directly to the sauce. Mix in your beans and stir it all together. Let it cook together for a minute.
Add parsley and serve. Garnish each portion with Parmesan cheese. Sure, you can cook spaghetti with this but it’s almost not necessary. It’s totally up to you!
Wine pairing suggestions:
To enjoy this Italian dish, I had opened a great aged wine I received from a friend – 1998 Terredora di Paolo S.S. Taurasi. 100% Aglianico from the region of Campania is an incredible, highly rated wine and also (as I found out later) quite expensive. I will write a review on this wine for those who like to try special things, but for our Sunday cooking I picked more ‘wallet friendly’ reds.
First red I tried with Mamma’s meatballs was Falesco Vitiano from Italian Umbria. This blend is always right on money and never disappointed me. The other wine I paired this dish with was Coltibuono Sangiovese Cancelli 2006 from Tuscany. Both wines worked well, maybe Cancelli was even better match than Vitiano for my taste.