Hearing the sizzle of garlic and smelling its aroma immediately causes me to feel happy and relaxed. I have a myriad of food memories associated with this usual first step in cooking. Some memories are from my childhood, hearing and smelling garlic cooking in my parents’ kitchen. Other memories were created in my own kitchen; the kitchen I have been cooking and baking in for nearly 17 years. I can vividly remember preparing eggplant parmesan for Chris while we were dating. I needed to peel the eggplant but couldn’t find a vegetable peeler. I couldn’t even find a “real” knife other than a table knife. I opened a cupboard (yes, a cupboard, not a drawer, in case the children that weren’t born yet would reach from the future and open a drawer and cut themselves) and found what was supposed to be a knife. I actually peeled and cut the eggplant with a (dull!) bread knife. How things have changed; now we have two vegetable peelers and plenty of sharp knives. It’s interesting; I haven’t thought about that meal in forever. It’s tucked in my brain with so many other food memories; so many that they have become a conglomerate. Instead of remembering every time I gathered around the table with my family, I experience an overall feeling of love. Even though garlic cooking in olive oil evokes many memories, one in particular is very prominent: eating rigatoni, sauce and meatballs nearly every Sunday when I was a child. I remember my Mom’s wooden spoon in its spoon rest (an emptied can of tomato paste) and the wonderful aromas of her sauce. This was an all day project that started before church and simmered all afternoon. All of my brothers, sisters and I would sneak a taste by dipping bread into the pot of sauce, and if somebody was feeling brave they might even steal a meatball or two. I make “Sunday sauce” for my family and even though it may not be every Sunday, I hope I am creating wonderful food memories for them, too.
In olive oil sauté 6 cloves of chopped garlic for 2 or 3 minutes until it has a hint of color. Remove from pan and place into food processor or blender. Chop 1 small onion and cook it in the same pan. Cook until very soft. Purée cooked garlic and onion until smooth. Allow to cool a bit. Mix 1-1 ½ lbs of ground beef with about 1 lb ground veal in a large bowl. To the same bowl, add 2 or 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, ½ cup milk, 2 eggs lightly beaten, 2 handfuls of grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and several shakes of Italian herb seasoning. Add the puréed garlic and onion. Mix all of the ingredients together; your hands work best here. Form the meatballs to your desired size. I cook my meatballs in an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees. There is a bit of a controversy in Italian households regarding whether it’s best to cook the meatballs right in the sauce or bake them first. I have cooked them both ways and prefer baking them first. The result is a softer, more moist meatball. If you decide to bake them, cook until they are browned, about 30 minutes.