Da-da's food posts will be for people who have to feed ravenous, bottomless-pit children, usu. multi-boy families, HUNGRY MONSTER BOYS MY GOD LOOK AT THE BONES, not to mention beleaguered Mr. Moms who don't count anyway. Above all, these posts are for Da-da, because no one appreciates Da-da like Da-da. C'mon, after doing all the hominid courting and breeding and growing and feeding and educating and gerunding, Da-da is now SO-OO back of the bus. Last seat. Face pressed up against the window. But enough about Da-da's socio-economic status. Let's back wa-aay up and try to ease the hyphenation.
Da-da's parents are from the midwest (someone had to be), and consequently weren't exposed to a plethora of thrilling cuisine. They're from Meat and Potatoes Land, with a spattering of southern cooking influences... and they NEVER ate pasta growing up. (For thrills, they ate RICE.) But once they moved to Southern California in the late fifties, those provincial bets were off. Indeed, later, they became trained chefs in their own right.
So, it wasn't surprising that, when Da-da was only six, he'd never had linguini and meatballs; the only pasta he'd ever had was spaghetti. And he'd certainly never experienced real parmesan cheese; young master Da-da thought parmesan cheese came in a tall green can filled with Italian sawdust.
Enter a man named Don Rosenbrock. One of Da-da's parent's co-workers, Don invited us over for dinner one January night in 1970. Don was cooking in his kitchen, plying some red sauce and garlic and various meats and green things that he chopped and cajoled and squished between this fingers. Weirder still, Don was doing this while playing his, "HAIR!", album from 1968. (Don kinda looked like the cover, as Da-da recalls.)
Being the product of two Republican bankers, I'd never heard this kind of music before, as it was considered, "hippie" (anything that smacked of, "hippie," was not a good thing in my family). Anyway, the chef was cooking something alien and listening to something incomprehensible and catchy and Da-da was intrigued to say the least. Don watched Young Master Da-da peruse his freakish, left-wing record collection (what, no Sinatra? no Mantovani?), when he asked if Da-da had ever had, "stinky feet cheese." Nothing grabs a six-year-old's attention like a word salad of, "stinky," "feet" and "cheese."
Young Da-da expressed ignorance and noticed that his dad was also looking bemused. Don then showed us our first-ever wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano -- bigger than our TV -- while plating mounds of linguini and meatballs and topping them with freshly grated parmesan. I took my first bite... and suddenly felt like Christopher Columbus after discovering a great chili burger stand in Columbus, OH.
To this day, linguini and meatballs serve as Da-da's, "grounding meal," bringing everything back down to simple, affordable, earthy yumminess. And last Da-da noticed, the world needs more simple, affordable, earthy yummy groundingness. Anyway, the recipe is below. Enjoy.
Da-da's Linguini and Meatballs
2 lbs each, ground beef and sausage
Handful of mint
Handful of flat-leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 c. grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Sauce (see below)
Decent dry red wine
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Place a sheet of foil on a jellyroll pan and smear with about a 1/4 c. of olive oil. Meanwhile, dump the above ingredients -- save for meat and sauce -- into a food processor and process till you have a green mealy mixture. Pour mixture over meat in a large bowl. Add egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands until homogenous, then roll into 2" balls, arranging them evenly on the jellyroll pan. Bake for 20 minutes on one side, turn over and bake another 25 minutes. Should make something like 18 meatballs. Mint is the first secret ingredient that Da-da stole from an old Sicilian grandma who's still looking to strangle Da-da. Bring it on, grandma.Now.
While the meatballs are baking (much less messy than sauteing and just as tasty), set a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Pour about 3 tbls (or three "circles") of olive oil into the pot, then add 4-5 jars of secret ingredient #2: Trader Joes' Marinara Sauce. After decanting the sauce, pour a decent dry red into one of the jars (about a cup of wine), put the lid back on the jar and shake and pour into the next one until you do them all, then pour the last one into the pot. (I know, but Trader Joes' Marinara is good, cheap and fast, and Da-da has enough on his plate, thankyouverymuch; make a sauce from scratch if you must, but the last time Da-da looked, big cans of tomatoes were $4.) Set the sauce to simmer, gently.[NOTE: these days, Da-da mixes TJ's organic basil sauce and its regular basil sauce, as they balance each other out.]
Once the meatballs are done, place them one by one into the sauce and simmer for 1-2 hours (more cooking makes meatballs more tender) -- but not too long, or you're left with a meat sauce! Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Da-da usually uses linguini with his meatballs, but any string pasta works; linguini grabs the sauce well. Follow the package directions, then turn off the heat on the sauce and meatballs. Once the pasta's done and drained, get your big plates ready. A bohemian TROLL, Da-da uses glass pie plates, as they're cheap and reminds Da-da of his troll roots. Note: before you plate, turn off the heat and dump a cup of parmesan into the sauce and stir; don't do it earlier, as the cheese will separate and leave a BP oil slick. Onward.
Place a Gorgonesque PLOMP of linguini on each plate, then dole up 2-3 meatballs per person. Slather with more parmesan and eat with garlic-cheese bread and the rest of that red wine and then go sleep it off. And boy will you wake up the next day feeling fortified.
Why so many meatballs, Brunelleschi?
BECAUSE YOU'RE GONNA MAKE MEATBALL SANDWICHES TOMORROW you Genoese goober.
Buy a big loaf of french or sourdough bread, cut it in half so it's still connected, toast it with a bit of the warmed sauce and fresh mozzarella and parmesan, cut some warmed meatballs in half and place them on top of the cheese with a little more warmed sauce, dust with parmesan, broil a bit, and squish it together. Then draw a lo-ooong cold one, or a bottle of red, and camp out in front of Any Game, USA -- or better yet, an old movie -- and take your place in grinder heaven, brother.
And thank you, Don Rosenbrock, wherever you are.