Italian-Americans rightly embarrassed by the cliché of spaghetti and meatballs claim no one in Italy eats such stuff. But there is a meatball tradition in the Abruzzi, Apulia, and south Italy, where polpette appear in broth, layered in lasagne, and with pasta. What you don’t find are those tennis-ball-sized meatballs sitting on a bed of overcooked spaghetti dressed with tomato sauce. Anyone would be embarrassed by that mess. But wonderfully seasoned little meatballs combined with ricotta and a good tomato sauce makes a very satisfying pasta indeed.
Mix the ground beef, onions, garlic, mixed herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into tiny meatballs, about
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add as many meatballs as will fit without crowding and sauté until browned but still a bit rare in the center. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a large saucepan. Add the meatballs and keep warm over very low heat.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a pasta bowl. Ladle the tomato sauce with meatballs over the top and add the ricotta in dollops. Quickly toss to combine and sprinkle with the parsley and Parmesan. Serve hot.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.