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‘Mama’ makes great meatballs

A search of the Internet failed to find the recipe for The Olive Garden’s meatballs, but it did pull up a recipe by Nicolina DiSpirito, 78, the mother of chef Rocco DiSpirito of “The Restaurant” television show on NBC. A former school cook, “Mama,” as she is fondly called, gets rave reviews for the her meatballs. She’s from San Nicola Baronia, Avellino, Italy. The accompanying recipe appears on www.statesman.com, the Web site of the Austin American-Statesman.


Nicolina DiSpirito’s Meatballs


For James Kobasko, Wheeling, W.Va., who wanted the recipe for The Olive Garden’s meatballs. From L.T., Penn Hills.

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 or 3 pinches of crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Marinara sauce
  • Hot cooked spaghetti (optional)

Place the chicken stock, onion, garlic and parsley in a blender or food processor and puree. Set aside.

Combine the ground meats, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, crushed red pepper, salt and the stock mixture in a large bowl. Mix lightly, using your hands, until uniform. Do not overmix.

Rub your hands with a little olive oil. Form the mixture into 2-ounce balls.

Heat about 1/2 inch of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs, turning once (do not crowd them). Drain and simmer in marinara sauce. Serve over spaghetti, if desired.

Makes about 24 meatballs.

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  • In last week’s Recipe Exchange, there was a request for a recipe for chicken that used to be on the label of Hunt’s tomato sauce. I also am looking for a recipe that was on the label. During the 1950s, the company printed a recipe for a pizza sauce to be used with Pillsbury Hot Roll mix as the crust. It was better than any of the pizza shop pies around today and was easy to make in a skillet. In those days, pizza was not that popular in this area except in Italian homes, and there weren’t commercial ones like today — which I don’t classify as pizza. I want to pass this recipe down to my granddaughters.
    – Peter J., via-e-mail

  • I hope someone has the recipe for a Bundt-style cake that was popular in the late 1960s. It was called Tunnel of Fudge Cake. It was chocolate with a wonderful fudgy nut center. Also, I would like a recipe for a cream filling made with granulated sugar and evaporated milk.
    – Mona Shoben, White Oak

  • I would like to find a recipe for hot pepper soup, like the one served at Italian Oven. The base is tomato.
    – B.L., New Kensington


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