FARGO — Believe it or not, this week marks my 500th “Home with the Lost Italian” column. The passage of time has been on my mind especially of late, as I help my son, Giovanni (my only child), prepare for his senior year of high school.
The two of us have just spent the past week driving across the country on an epic adventure to find Gio a home for the fall of 2023 and beyond. We have traveled through 11 states, crossed the Pennsylvania Turnpike, visited seven colleges and enjoyed several memorable meals together, including an amazing breakfast in South Bend, Ind., Skyline Chili, California rolls, steak and lobster in Cincinnati (great town for foodies!) and a terrific salad pizza in Fairfield, Conn.
We have had our share of hiccups along the way, like having to find an orthodontist willing to repair a broken retainer, as well as an auto repair service to replace and tighten several lug nuts on my trusty Honda’s front tires that had been loosened and removed by someone hoping to secure some new tires. Thankfully, we were successful on both fronts and returned to the road with little delay and lots of laughter.
At this moment, Gio and I are lounging in my Aunt Peg’s lake-side home in the woods of Littleton, Mass. My cousin Zack, a cook of supreme talent, is singing along to Spotify’s “Happy Cooking Music” playlist as he whips up a variety of dishes for us to enjoy at dinner, while my Aunt Peg and Uncle Glenn relax on their screened-in porch overlooking the lake, recounting the events of the day.
As I take in my surroundings, I am overcome by a deep wave of nostalgia and gratitude. These are some of our favorite people on the planet, and this is the perfect place for us to wrap up our journey before heading home to Fargo. Peg’s house is the very essence of warmth and comfort, and we have been able to sit back, swim and process the events of the past week before the Big Decision must be made.
I started writing this column in November 2012, shortly after Gio turned 8 years old. We had just spent that summer crisscrossing North Dakota on a family adventure we called Lost on the Prairie. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, we spent every weekend in our car, driving to a different part of our home state on a quest to see as much of North Dakota as possible in one summer. This experience changed my family forever and filled my son with a deep sense of place and home. It also led to a variety of wonderful opportunities, including the invitation to write this weekly column.
It is almost impossible for me to imagine that in just a little over a year, Giovanni will be in a new home state, off on his own adventure in the pursuit of knowledge, friendship and purpose. When I look at him today, I still see the sweet little boy who enthusiastically worked with me to create his own signature recipes for this column, including Gio’s Meatballs, a favorite among our readers. Watching him navigate the world of college visits and interviews this past week has been both marvelous and surreal.
Cooking is a wonderful way to bond with children and family, and this recipe is designed to be fun and easy to make, no matter your age. I love having this platform to share my recipes and family stories with you and thank you for joining me on my weekly food adventures.
PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe
Makes: About 30 1-inch meatballs
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together. Add the ground beef, cheese, eggs, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper, and use your hands to aggressively mix until well-combined, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Use your hands or an ice cream scoop to shape the meatballs to desired size (we recommend 1-inch in diameter, which makes about 30 meatballs) and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until they are cooked through (internal temp should be 165 degrees) and evenly browned all over, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve immediately or add to your favorite tomato sauce and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.
To store: Place the meatballs, cooked or uncooked, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and freeze until hard to the touch. Once hardened, transfer meatballs to a plastic freezer bag or container, label with the date and freeze for up to 3 months.
This week in…
Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
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