And they called it Maccheroni! Don’t get me started, but the word macaroni is the English spelling of the Italian word maccheroni. In America, macaroni is synonymous with elbow shaped pasta, which are called gomiti in Italian (and are usually covered with fake cheese sauce in America). In Italy, maccheroni is a catch-all term, and generally covers all flat-ended tubular short pasta shapes (like ziti and even rigatoni).
The Italian term is thought to derive from the ancient Greek term “macaria.” However, since making pasta used to be hard work (grinding wheat), it is also thought that the word may derive from the Italian word maccare, meaning to pound or crush. And yes, the British later used the term in the Yankee Doodle song as derogatory, to mean an over-dressed fop or dandy (though I bet Yankee Doodle was just a well-dressed Italian and they were jealous)!
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Sunday Pasta®: Maccheroni con le Polpettine e Mozzarella al Forno (Meatballs)
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 4-6 1x
- 1 pound maccheroni (penne or ziti)
- 8 ounces mozzarella, coarsely chopped
- 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- For the Sauce:
- 1 28 ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- For the Meatballs:
- 1 pound chopped beef (sirloin, 85%)
- 1/4 cup flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Parmigiano or pecorino cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Milk, as needed (water is an alternative)
- 2 slices Italian bread, without the crusts (or 1/2 cup breadcrumbs)
- Olive oil for frying
- Prepare the Meatballs:
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (salt, pepper, Parmigiano, parsley, and garlic), and then add the beaten eggs. Dip the bread in milk or water, squeeze out some of the liquid and then mix it into the egg mixture Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, add the meat and mix thoroughly by hand. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape into a small ball (about the size of a large marble), until you have formed all the balls. In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot, place the meatballs in the skillet, with enough room to allow you to easily flip them over. Cook the meatballs on a low heat until brown on all sides (but being careful not to burn them). Remove the meatballs from the skillet place on a paper towel to drain.
- Prepare the Sauce:
- Chop the onion and fry it in the olive oil and skillet used to fry the meatballs. When the onion is golden, add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook on low heat, uncovered for 20-30 minutes until reduced.
- Assemble the Pasta:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for half of the package recommendation, until very al dente. Drain the pasta and place into a baking dish. Mix in 2/3 of the cheese, the meatballs, and most of the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and remaining mozzarella.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden.
- Serve immediately.