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An Ode to Meatballs

2012 March 16
by Steph Lawrence

Me, left, Alexis, right

Dear Grandma,

It was you who started my love affair with meatballs. When we used to visit you in Florida, I’ll never forget the chocolate frosted marble cupcakes (refrigerated, of course), golf cart driving, and endless games of gin rummy. But the best part, my true favorite, will always be your meatball sandwiches. Pasta with meatballs was the dinnertime regular, but it was lunch the next day that was always my real favorite: leftover meatballs with your homemade tomato sauce on buttered italian bread.

When Mom called and told me you had died, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I emailed Mom and asked for the recipe, and Craig went out and bought fresh meat from our local butcher. I wanted to honor you through the way I knew and loved you best: your cooking. I’d never made them before, I don’t know why. But it struck me as important that I remember you through food. With eggs from our chickens, and parsley from the garden, I shaped meatballs and memories with my hands, remembering your voice, and summers on Cape Cod, and so much more.

Thank you Grandma, for your delicious food; for teaching us to drive (maybe illegally) on the Basking Ridge golf courses; for your gruff and loving voice; for teaching me to play Bridge; for your support and excitement, when I last saw you and told you about the food-related business I am starting. Your encouragement meant more than you could ever know.

We’ll miss you, Grandma, and love you always. Your memory lives on in our cooking.

Love always,

Rosemary “Boots” Bartolini
March 18, 1924 – March 4, 2012

Grandma’s Meatballs

    ¾ lb. ground beef
    ½ lb. ground pork
    ¼ lb. ground veal
    ½ c. flavored breadcrumbs
    ¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped
    ¼ c. parmesan cheese
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    2 eggs
    zested rind of one lemon
    dash nutmeg
    salt & pepper

Place all ingredients in bowl and mix until combined. Shape into meatballs. Brown meatballs in oil. Cook browned meatballs in favorite tomato sauce for one hour or until cooked through. Serve over ziti or other cooked pasta. Better yet, slice and serve with extra sauce on your favorite italian bread.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Ellen permalink
    March 17, 2012

    Dear Steph,
    Alexis told me about your grandmother’s death. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to be with her to the end, but you have written the most wonderful eulogy any grandmother could want. I cried as I read it to Bill.
    I believe cooking and eating are our paths to love, family and the world.
    Love you and wish you were closer.

  2. March 17, 2012

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Stephanie. I’m sure this would mean a lot to your Grandmother. The meatballs look delicious. Also, let me know if you’d like to reschedule our call – happy to chat.

  3. Hermine Hull permalink
    March 19, 2012

    Dearest Stephanie,

    What a loving tribute to your grandmother. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the meatball recipe. Lemon zest! Can’t wait to try making them.

    love and condolences to you, Craig, Albus, and your family.


  4. james5 permalink
    March 22, 2012

    Here’s to Boots! Ingredients bought for tomorrow’s grandma tribute. I love you!

  5. August 30, 2012

    The meatballs sound wonderful! We’ll have them soon and I’ve named the recipe ‘Boots’ Meatballs’ for my private collection of recipes.

    PS – I’ll remember your wonderful tribute to your Grandmother each time I make them.

  6. Isabella permalink
    January 23, 2013

    Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you for sharing your grandmothers love of her family with us. I lost my mom a year ago yesterday and she is deeply missed. My dear mother spread love through food also and I’m so grateful to learn from her and appreciate the love of food. We’re Hungarian, similar culture, but my dad always thinks I’m Italian because I’m obsessed with the food. Can’t wait to try this recipe. I think we might be neighbors as I live in Piscataway, NJ and you mentioned Basking Ridge. Small world.

    So sorry for your loss. Keep spreading her love.


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