NONNA’S ORIGINAL MEATBALLS
By: Rosanna Pusateri-Ciccolini
Eating at Nonna’s can only be described one way—simple-pleasures. Everything she makes for us, she makes with pride, by hand and, much of it from her garden. Recipes don't exist—instead a treasure of ideas, combinations and collaborations in her mind. My late father praised her hands and would say they were more valuable than gold.
Nonna Dina is everyone’s Nonna. With a sharp mind and unmistakable wit she is loved and admired for her self-discipline and work ethic. She was the matriarch of her own family and the one she created in the kitchen at Pusateri’s.
We’ve been blessed to have childhood memories that revolve around Nonna. There are countless stories to share, all bring a smirk and laugh to the table when we retell them.
The time she branched out of the traditional vegetable garden offering and produced watermelons (of very unique shapes), or the stories about her magic apple tree that grew apples that never rot. Her tomato sauce—the precise and ONLY way to make it, the countless bushels of tomatoes she cooks off every year for her children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren. The way she smiles when you tell her “it didn’t taste like yours.” The stories are rich with love.
Still today, she amuses us with her playfulness. There is no more pleasure than that she receives from being together and cooking for us.
Nonna’s notable Meatballs gave her high rank right from the beginning. Whether bubbling in fresh tomato sauce, fried up with rapini, baked within her trays of Pasta al Forno, or tossed up in a saucy dish of pork ribs or sausage, they were melt in your mouth perfection.
It was years before I considered asking Nonna what made her recipe so good, and it was only recently that she divulged her secret special blend of meats, rolling method to ensure a moist consistency and the splash of milk technique.
In Nonna’s recipe she first blends pork, veal and beef for the perfect balance of texture, fat and flavour. Freshly seasoned breadcrumbs, farm fresh eggs, a touch of milk and simple Italian spices act as the binder. The trick is minimal mixing—too much will make the meat tough. Nonna will tell you that your hands are the most important tool in the kitchen—feeling is the best way to learn.
When all the ingredients are combined begin rolling. Of course, Nonna can eye out the exact amount of mixture to make a consistent size of meatball. I like to experiment—sometimes with mini meatballs for the kids, sometimes large ones stuffed with cheese, I have even tossed the meatball into a final coat of breadcrumbs for the times I bake them. Nonna’s rolling is quickly executed, she forms perfect balls at the speed of a small machine then gently plops them down on a baking sheet and moves on.
The meatballs are gently browned in the slightest bit of oil to hold their form and then cooked in fresh tomato sauce to absorb all the moisture and flavour.
Nonna’s recipe is still used in our stores today—and pork free and turkey versions have been added. Find bowls of her saucy meatballs in our prepared counters, prepackages and for a limited time in our signature meatball sandwich.
As Nonna would say, “prend un piatto veni-ca” we invite you to “take a plate and come over.”
Rosanna Pusateri-Ciccolini is the daughter of Cosimo & Ida. Wife and mom to three incredible children. She grew up in the family business, bringing dolls to work and helping bake muffins in the kitchen. Lover of all things Italian. Intrigued by food, food trends and adopting old world dishes into her everyday life. Enjoys sharing and spreading food ideas, solutions or new favourites to friends and family in an efforts to keep the kitchen a happy healthy centre of the home.