Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cheesy Meatballs Marinara

THE GAME: Eagles vs Packers 

Memories of two cheese-intense meals at opposite ends of the spectrum:

One summer night in Philadelphia, drunk and hungry, a friend drove me to what she claimed were the best cheesesteaks in the city. It was my first Philly cheesesteak actually eaten in Philly, and it was a culinary revelation on par with anything I have ever tasted in America. 

Another afternoon, at a Green Bay sports bar in the shadow of Lambeau Field, I ordered a cheese pizza and the bartender asked if I wanted pizza sauce or ranch dressing as the base. I should have recognized that as a leper's bell, but I simply said "pizza sauce" and went back to my beer. 

When the pizza arrived, it did indeed include pizza sauce, but also more cheese than I have ever seen on a pizza, before or since. There was cheese stuffed into the crust, there was cheese as a base layer, and then a healthy (meaning, in this case, extremely unhealthy) amount of cheese curds. 

Not surprisingly, a lake of grease floated on top of the pizza. The whole thing was... not good. 

Many years later - last night, in fact - I found myself watching a Monday Night Football game between Philadelphia and Green Bay. Thinking back to those two meals, I started craving something with lots of cheese. 

  • I've had better meatballs made for me by people, often claiming they are using ancient family recipes... but I have never purchased better meatballs than the beef & pork version from my local butcher. 
  • I cooked the meatballs in my cast iron pan in the oven for about 30 minutes, then drained off most of the fat and returned them to the oven. 
  • I feel a little silly saying this, but Emeril's jarred marinara sauce is actually surprisingly good. Which is fortunate, as that's all I had in the pantry. I added a healthy amount of sauce to the pan and let it cook another 20 minutes. 
  • I shredded mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan, and topped the meatballs for a few minutes until the cheese was just melted. 
  • I ate my meatballs with several pieces of fresh basil as well, because very few flavors go better with garlic and marinara than fresh basil. 

  • There have been plenty of athletes I have disliked over the years, but I've always had specific reasons. I can't tell you exactly why I dislike Aaron Rodgers so much... but I sure do. 
  • I've never been a huge Eagles fan - although I somewhat like them, since they play in the same division as the Cowboys and Redskins - but I did once spend $32 to get a Freddie Mitchell "FredEx: The People's Champ" t shirt express-delivered in time for Super Bowl XXXIX. 
  • Did Green Bay look really good that game or did Philly's defense just have a lousy night? They were one of the best third-down defenses this season; tonight they look like one of the worst I have ever seen. 
  • All things considered, that was a pretty damn boring game. 

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