In my opinion, meatballs are one of the most underplayed components of almost every Italian restaurant’s menu. I’m not saying that everyone gets them wrong, but the fact is that more often than not, they are under-seasoned balls of nondescript beef that are dry and boring.
I often wonder why people settle for this, but when I think about it, I may have my standards set too high. You see, the first recipe taught to me in my grandmother’s kitchen were meatballs, cooked to be added to a Sunday Sauce.
In those days, I was taught to measure the proper ingredients by the feel of the mixture in my hands. I took these lessons very seriously, and in time I mastered them and began to improve upon them.
Today, it is rare that I serve the following recipe to a client. However, it’s very often that these tasty traditional treats adorn my own family table, which is what really counts when the day is done.
Grandma’s Italian Meatballs
Makes 12 medium-sized meatballs
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground veal
- 1 medium yellow onion (small dice)
- 4 cloves of garlic (small dice)
- 2 tbls. chopped Italian Parsley (rough chop)
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 egg (beaten)
- ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tsp. kosher salt (plus more to season to taste)
- Olive oil for sauté and frying
- In a sauté pan, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and set the flame to medium. Allow the olive to heat through and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Allow to sweat until translucent and add the garlic. Continue sweating this mixture until the garlic begins to take on color, but do not let it brown. Immediately remove the mixture from the pan to cool and spread out over parchment paper or a foil-lined sheet pan.
- In a large bowl, begin assembling the remaining ingredients. Add the chopped meats, egg and parsley. With clean hands (hands are the best utensil to use for this preparation), mix the contents of the bowl. Then add the onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, pepper and salt. Mix again with your hands until fully combined. Create a small test meatball (you must taste for seasoning).
- Fill a fry pan with enough olive oil to come 1/2 of the way up the test meatball. Put the flame on medium and allow the oil to heat through. Next, add the test meatball to the pan. Watch carefully to assure that the oil isn’t too hot. The meatball shouldn’t sear immediately but should instead stay 2–3 minutes on each side between turning. Once it has browned on each side, remove to a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, give it a taste. If it needs more salt or pepper, add it now.
- When happy with the mixture, begin to roll out your meatballs. Be careful not to make them too big or you risk not cooking them through. You should be able to roll out 12 meatballs.
- Add them to the oil, again making sure they do not burn. Lower or raise the flame as necessary, but remember that these will be further cooked in sauce or the oven. Once they are browned on both sides, you have two options. One- you could continue to bake them in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, for thirty minutes and then serve them dry with sauce on the side. Two, my favorite- you can add them to your favorite sauce and simmer them for 15-20 minutes and spoon them over your favorite pasta. What’s great about this method is that the flavors of the sauce and meatballs mix and bolster each other.
- No matter how you do it, they will taste great and can be even better the next day.
So what about the wine? It may seem like a cliché, but I find that nothing pairs better with Spaghetti and Meatballs, than a bottle of Chianti Classico.
2012 Fontodi Chianti Classico – The nose was very pretty and remarkably fresh with notes of cherry, crushed stone, and sweet floral tones. Ripe and intense yet with a balance of fine tannin, the palate displayed cherry, strawberry and a hint of leather strap. It was long and focused on the finish with lingering notes of cherry and herbs. This is a classic Fontodi Chianti that can be enjoyed today, or it can evolve in the cellar over the next ten years or more. (92 points) Find it @Morrell
Recipe, Photos, and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
It’s not typical that a white wine would inspire you as the months grow colder and we find ourselves only days away from the start of the holidays, but that’s simply because most white wines have very little in common with Riesling. In fact, it’s at this time of year that I typically start to add more Riesling to my cellar. Not to mention, it’s probably the perfect white wine pairing for rich foods and the variety of flavors that we typically find on our holiday table.
Precise, layered, satisfying on so many levels, and able to age for decades, Riesling is often referred to the white wine for red wine lovers, as it has presence on the palate that incites intrigue and a desire to dissect and understand. What region, vineyard, soil, and producer did it come from—and how can they be so immediately appealing, while also evolving for decades? These are the wonders of Riesling.
In Germany, as we bypass the well-known region of Mosel and look to the lesser-known Nahe, or in this case, the Upper Nahe, we find a diversity of soil types, the result of this region’s volcanic origins. Sandstone, slate, melaphyre and porphyry can all be seen within a single vineyard. It’s in this sleepy region that we find the Schäfer-Fröhlich estate, which has become one of the premier producers of Riesling over the last decade.
This is far from a new name in the Nahe, with nine generations of family winemaking under their belt. However, it was in 1995 that Tim Frohlich, with no formal education and only in his early twenties, approached his parents with the proposition that he take control of the vineyard and winery. This fact seems almost implausible, yet Tim excelled through his dedication, passion, experience, and willingness to experiment and go against the grain.
Of course improvements didn’t happen overnight; in fact it took ten years for Schäfer-Fröhlich to begin receiving high acclaim throughout the industry and in wine publications. Much of their success was the result of a number of smart acquisitions made by Tim in some of the best vineyards in the region, which nearly doubled the family’s original holdings. He then went on to become a terroir fanatic; developing the best methods to extract the perfect expression of fruit from each of his six Grosses Gewachs classified vineyards. Of considerable note are the blue slate, loess (fine silty sediment) and loam (sand, silt, clay blend) soils of the Felseneck vineyard, considered one of Tim’s most prized holdings, and a virtually unknown location before he started working with it.
Tim is also a practitioner of spontaneous natural yeast fermentation, which can be apparent upon first opening a bottle of Schäfer-Fröhlich, yet these savage and sometimes animal aromas blow off quickly, and what remains is a precise, crystalline, pure, and mineral-intense expression. In fact, I’ve yet to have a bottle that didn’t gain tremendous depth and complexity after remaining open over night. This begs the question of just how good Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling would be if we could hold off from finishing them so quickly.
In their youth, these are remarkably intense, saline, and savory, while also remaining fruit intense and refreshing to the core. Balance is the key, which Tim is a master of achieving. I’m reminded of this as I taste the 2014 Felseneck Kabinett; the fact that it retains 45 grams of residual sugar per liter, yet shows hardly a hint of sweetness, is remarkable.
You have to taste them to believe them, and I assure you, working through a selection of Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling will be one of the most pleasurable exercises you’ve ever embarked on. I also can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays, as these wines will pair with nearly anything you can put on the table. Enjoy!
On to the tasting notes:
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling trocken – The nose was intense, showing crush stone, tart lemon, cheese rind, and saline-minerals. The palate displayed a rush of minerality up front followed by tart citrus, green apple and herbs. The finish showed intense tart citrus with gum-searing acidity, yet in the best possible way. (89 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Pinot Blanc trocken – The nose was restrained and youthful; yet with time in the glass, it opened up to reveal aromas of young peach with yellow floral tones and crushed stone. It coated the senses with tart citrus and apricot fruit, along with a wave of mouthwatering acidity, which refreshed the senses. The finish showed rich pit fruits with contrasting tart citrus. This was very pretty and remarkably refreshing. (90 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Kabinett – This showed amazing minerality on the nose with wet and crushed stone, olive, herbs, tropical citrus, lemon zest, and hint of wool–it’s almost savory. On the palate, it displayed tremendous energy and verve with a remaining hint of Co2, which blew off quickly to reveal rich citrus tones offset by vibrant, pulsing acidity and mineral thrust. It is a beautiful Kabinett, in perfect balance, and hard to put down. (92 points) @Morrell
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Riesling Vulkangestein Riesling trocken – The nose was savory and mineral-driven with smoke, crushed stone and cheese rind. On the palate, it was focused and intense, showing lemon-tinged apple and minerals with masses of inner floral tones. Long and saturating on the finish with tingling acidity, which seemed to touch upon all the senses. (93 points) @Morrell
The Schafer-Frohlich Vulkangestein hails from parcels of younger vines in the Felsenberg and Stromberg vineyards. The soil here is volcanic, which you can literally smell and taste in the glass.
2013 Schäfer-Fröhlich Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs – The nose was intense, with earth and floral tones up front followed by wet slate, smoke, cheese rind and a hint of peach. On the palate, there was tremendous depth with young mango, green apple, a spritz of citrus and dazzling inner floral tones. It finished long with palate-coating citrus and minerals, yet tight, like a bomb waiting to explode. This was gorgeous. (94 points) @Morrell
2012 Schäfer-Fröhlich Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs – An impressively fresh, yet rich bouquet of spicy floral notes, grapefruit, kiwi and an intense wave of minerals reached up from the glass. On the palate, it seemed poised to attack yet held back in its youthful state, showing rich and supple textures with flavors of young peach, kiwi and minerals. However, you can sense the tension in this wine. On the finish, notes of grapefruit and exotic spice lingered long. (94 points) @Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
Visionary winemakers only come along once in a great while, especially in a region like Piedmont, where tradition is now of the utmost importance. From the ashes of the Barolo wars, where modernist and traditionalist faced off, we have found ourselves with an entirely new catchphrase for Barolo and Barbaresco, and that’s “classic.” It doesn’t matter if you green harvest or age in small barrel, as long as your wine shows transparency of place and purity to its Nebbiolo fruit.
But what’s the next step? Which producer is on the path to becoming that next “visionary” talent in Barolo? In my opinion, it’s Roagna.
Roagna marches to the beat of their own drum, describing the approach as “Postmodern.” So what does this translate to for you and me? Sustainable practices for one thing, believing and truly living a natural approach in the vineyards and winery. Alfredo and Luca Roagna see each of their parcels as its own eco-system, with a unique biodiversity, which helps the vines better express a sense of place. Within their parcels and throughout each row, you’d find a mixture of flora. Because of the grasses, herbs and flowers found here, some onlookers might believe these vines to be uncared for, but they would be sorely mistaken.
The fact is that Piedmont has begun to suffer from over cultivation, as witnessed by repeated landslides since 2008. Yet for Roagna, the same cover crops that provide a natural fertilizer for their vines also prevent erosion. What’s more, they have been known to practice a centuries old technique of burying the shoot of one vine to start another, hence propagating the lineage of the vine before it. The risk involved in doing this is high (think Phylloxera), but the result is their ownership of some of the oldest vines in the region, many of them ungrafted, pure representations of Nebbiolo. Yet risk is something that Roagna is willing to endure to create great Barbaresco and Barolo. I often think back to the 2003 Pajé, a monumental wine made in a substandard vintage.
Roagna’s non-interventionist approach continues in the winery, with extended maceration times and natural fermentation (no temperature control) in large open wood vats. From there, the wine is moved to large Slavonian cask, where it can stay for as many years as the Roagna family sees fit. Each individual wine is allowed to take its time throughout the process. In fact, the 2010 Barolo and Barbarescos are the winery’s current releases, and good luck finding a tasting note—as Roagna refuses to show his wines before they are ready.
Upon bottling, each cru receives two different distinctions, a normale (Barolo or Barbaresco) and a Vecchie Viti (old vines). Whereas the Vecchie Viti of each cru is always a step up and drives the collecting market mad, it would be a serious mistake to ignore the normale, as these are some of the best values in the region. Lastly, there is Crichet Pajé, Roagna’s late release, which is a special selection from ancient vines in the Paje Cru. Aged for an extended time in barrel, it’s a wine of epic proportions that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Monfortino.
As Piedmont undergoes its modern day renaissance with repeated comparisons to Burgundy and musing over how these may one day be just as rare and expensive, it truly pays to get to know Roagna, who is undoubtedly the next visionary producer in Piedmont.
2008 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – The bouquet alone was worth the price of entry. The lifted and floral nose revealed crushed cherry, exotic spice, sweet herbs and roses, before taking on ginger, tobacco and dusty soil tones–all the while remaining feminine and remarkably pretty. On the palate, tart cherry with hints of cedar, herbs and orange zest soothe the senses while fine tannin provided grip to its light-bodied frame. It finished on tart fruit, spice and tannin. The 2008 Pajé needs time for the palate to flesh out and catch up to it’s aromatics, but once it does…I can only imaging. (94 points)
2003 Roagna Barolo Vigna Rionda – The nose of the Roagna was classic in every way as a bouquet of cherries and earth with tar, roses and undergrowth wafted up from the glass. On the palate, it was, at first, very tight and focused with sweet cherry. With time in the glass it began to take on weight and show darker red fruit with earthy minerals and cedar. The finish was structured, yet long and truly showed this wine’s youth. From all the 2003s I’ve tasted, it showed the most classic and will benefit from further aging. (93 points)
1999 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – The ’99 Pajé showed gorgeously on this night. A bouquet of woodland fern, mint and cedar gave way to dried cherry, plum and dark floral tones. It was feminine with lively acidity and youthful tannin still showing. Cherry and strawberry dominated with a hint of spice, turning to cranberry as it carried across the mid-palate. The finish was unbelievably long with tart red fruits and earthy floral tones. I simply did not want this experience to end. (94 points)
1996 Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira – A drop-dead gorgeous Barolo, which is classic in every way and just starting to enter it’s drinking window. The nose was vibrant, showing sweet florals with dried strawberry, dark earth, dried flowers and dusty spice. On the palate, it was lean at first, yet fleshed out in the glass with red berry, earth and hints of menthol. It’s balanced structure kept this lively and fresh, yet intimidating all the same, with a finish that begged for years in the cellar–yet its tart, concentrated red fruit, which lingered on the gums, made me lust for another taste. (95 points)
1995 Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira – Initially, there seemed to be a dirty note to the nose, but with time in glass it came to life, showing undergrowth and floral notes with cinnamon and bright cherry fruit. On the palate, it was lush with sweet ripe strawberry and dusty cherry, minerals, and earth on a structured frame with lifting acidity. The finish showed a hint of drying tannin against focused fruit, giving the impression that this wine may be a few years short of its peak. (93 points)
Click Here, to explore Morrell’s selection of Roagna Barolo and Barbaresco.
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
You have to give credit where credit is due. This is the phrase that comes to mind while tasting the 2010 Macari Cabernet Franc. Why? Well, for one thing, I had spent a good amount of time thinking that Cabernet Franc in the North Fork was a lost cause. I found much more enjoyment from Merlot and various white wines from the region. Still, I work hard to leave all preconceptions behind when tasting wine. And it’s a good thing that I did so on this day, because on this day, I was schooled.
Macari Vineyards, established in 1995, comprises of 180 acres, containing vineyards, animals, produce, a large green house and even their own compost production area. Their vineyards stretch from Route 48 all the way to the Long Island Sound. They pride themselves on practicing sustainable agriculture and employing biodynamic principals. In fact, pride is something that radiates from each of the family members and staff who personify the warmth and community-focused mentality that exists out on the North Fork.
However, getting back to the 2010 Cab Franc, keep in mind that if you’re a fan of mineral and soil laden Chinon, than this may not be for you. However, when putting this against some of the most interesting Cab Franc from California, you quickly come to see its qualities and its value. There are no dank soil or bell pepper notes to be found here, just pure, detailed fruit, character and perfect balance.
What’s more, 2010 is not to be classified as a big wine. Although my tasting note may speak of a velvety palate and almost confectionary bouquet, this wine would still pair beautifully with food due to its balance. Much of this has to do with the vintage, one of the warmest and driest in the regions history. The question wasn’t whether the fruit would achieve ripeness early enough to pick. The question was, how soon should we pick to avoid overripe grapes? The Macari family took advantage of these conditions, creating a wine that is atypical of their usual Cab Franc offering (which is usually a cool-toned style), yet is unbelievably gorgeous and hard to resist.
2010 Macari Cabernet Franc – The nose was rich, almost confectionary and wonderfully expressive with spiced black cherry, fig and cola, fresh rosemary and an almost dusty gravel-mineral note, which kept it seated in reality. On the palate, I found this to be velvety smooth, like a dark wave washing over the senses with saturating blackberry fruit, wild herbs and balanced acidity. The finish lasted on the palate with hints of tannin tingling and tugging at the senses. Did this really come from the North Fork–Oh yes it did! (92+ points) @Morrell
Article and Tasting Note by: Eric Guido
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