In Italy back in the days (and now), meatballs, called “polpette,” were a staple in many homes, but were significantly smaller than the large American meatballs of today. Made with stale bread and ground meat, meatballs in Italy are traditionally served on their own, after the main course of pasta, naturally.
Spaghetti and meatballs originated as a result of Italian immigration to the US from 1880 onwards. I am quite sure that for practical reasons, Italian housewives, now transplanted in America, prepared a carry-on lunch for their husbands, with spaghetti and add the meatballs on the side (but on the same container), hence providing the carbohydrates and protein needed in just one dish. Italian ingenuity at its best!😊
The American version emerged as a result of Italian-Americans’ increasing wealth after they migrated–they could now afford to buy more meat, which is how and why their favorite home-style comfort food of meatballs became larger and larger with the meat to bread ratio tilting in favor of more meat. Spaghetti was—most likely—the only available pasta on the American market back in those days.
In Italy, meatballs are still served on their own. It is a dish that everyone likes, young and old. In general, almost all meatballs can be fried or baked and will tempt everyone to taste them. Bread soaked in milk or breadcrumbs? Fried, or oven baked, or in the sauce? Meatballs with just ground meat, or with added sausage, with crushed vegetables (I’m thinking zucchini), or adding prosciutto for taste? The choices are numerous, and it is a recipe that just about anyone can do.
My favorite is with sauce, as follow;
- ground meat
- bread crumbs
- grated parmesan
- and/or favorite spices
Usually, I keep the sauce to dress pasta, not necessarily spaghetti, but any kind. Although once in a while, overwhelmed by the nostalgia of the days in America, I do add some spaghetti and enjoy them blissfully!