That is about as close as we could get to narrowing down the point of origin for the omnipresent comfort food, and even that could be inaccurate. We all know, when we boldly go where no gourmet grandmother in a sauce-stained apron has gone before, our initial contact with a strange, alien race includes a confrontation with the familiar yet always interesting and tasty universal joy, the meatball.
They could be made with beef, veal, pork, lamb, fowl, fish, or any mixture of herbs and meats. Before the kitchen grinder has been devised, cooks shredded and pounded the meat prior to forming them into chunks.
And while countries prize their own notion of the dish, the meatball crosses all boundaries, thankfully trading traditions and components so that no cook could predict a native version of the meatball truly unique to a specific culture. That’s part of the meatball’s allure.
Why did the meatball appear independently in a lot of kitchens and cooking fires of ancient civilizations? Speculation focuses on the character of the meat and meat’s lack in ancient times.
Because meat was rare, mixing it with starches and vegetables allowed the meatball to add mass, feeding more people.
Storing meat over an extended period makes it hard. Mixing it with additives, soft and vinegar foodstuffs like bread produces a tender meatball.
Leftover bits of meat makes an economical meal at the meatloaf, without a waste of resources. The meatball, after all, is only bite-sized parts of meatloaf.
For Albanians, it is a mixture of feta cheese with the meat. In Mexicothey use the identical title as in Spain for meatballs, but the Mexicans serve their albóndigas in a soup, generally a light broth with veggies. The Poles like giant meatballs, known as golabki (No, it is not pronounced as it seems ), wrapped and baked in steamed cabbage leaves. Turkey enjoys meatballs, boasting over 80 variations of it, each slightly different based on the region.
Italians understand meatballs as polpette. Made from beef or veal, the components of polpette can also include Paarmigiano, mortadella or even béchamel sauce. Italian meatballs are modest, and in most areas of Italy, polpette is fried and served as an appetizer without sauce or topping to prevent masking the flavor.
That is not to mention spaghetti and meatballs isn’t an Italian tradition. It is just that the dish is a culinary heritage made by Italian immigrants to America.
The wave of Italian immigration to America that started near the end of the 19th century finally was the force for making pasta a staple of the middle class from the U.S., although it took some time. These prospective nutritional reformers declared that many fruits and vegetables, particularly green vegetables, had little nutritional value and cost too much.
Nevertheless the immigrants did find that the nutritionists were right about one thing; vegetables and fruits in the time cost too much. Meat was plentiful and cheap in the U.S., but at least by what they had been used to in the”old country.”
The seasonings the immigrants used were conventional ones from the Campania region of Italy, chiefly because Campanians early on established themselves as grocers in the U.S., making tomato paste, oregano and garlic easier to find than typical seasonings of different regions. Because of this, Italian-American cuisine started with a base of Campanain food, but without plenty of vegetables and cheeses.
Levenstein and Conlin indicate the joining of meatballs with pasta and tomato sauce had its origins in a number of baked Neapolitan pasta dishes served in religious festivals. However, the meatballs in these earlier dishes were the size of walnuts or less.
Diners also became accustomed to using garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes in their spaghetti and meatballs, giving birth to a brand new Italian heritage in the U.S. which was adopted across the American population.