BenGusto™ Buddy Class: Spaghetti & Meatballs

As a proud Italian-American, I’d like to say that I have always incorporated elements of both American and Italian cuisine in my recipes over the years. However, I must admit that I’ve delved heavily into Italian flavors, especially those of the northwestern regions of Piemonte and Liguria, and very little in the American side of gastronomy.

BenGusto™ Buddy Cooking Class: Spaghetti & Meatballs

So, for once, I’m pleased to announce that the BenGusto Buddy Cooking Class team has finally discovered what it means to be Italo-Americano at the table. Legend has it that spaghetti and meatballs developed into a staple of the New York Italian-American diet shortly after its creation in the 1920s. Therefore, the dish truly does represent the quintessence of Italo-Americano culture.

(from left to right) Marcus, Andrew, CJ, Chris, Halle, and Aly roll out the meatballs.

(from left to right) Marcus, Andrew, CJ, Chris, Halle, and Aly roll out the meatballs.

 

On Thursday, March 26, the usual group of chefs met up to tackle a full menu of spaghetti with homemade meatballs, asparagus, and peas, and a side dish of roasted asparagus and fennel wrapped in prosciutto crudo. We cooked in 10, with the beautiful addition of a promising chef named Lorenzo who recently got into cooking after participating in the Best Buddies organization’s annual “Sweet Life” culinary event.

Aly, CJ, Halle, Lorenzo, and I pose with our side dish of asparagus and fennel wrapped in prosciutto and roasted.

Aly, CJ, Halle, Lorenzo, and I pose with our side dish of asparagus and fennel wrapped in prosciutto and roasted.

The finished side dish up close.

The finished side dish up close.

We followed the BenGusto™ recipe for Baked Turkey “Polpettine” Meatballs, but added a hint of spring life with the addition of asparagus tips and peas. For the side dish, we prepared little “packages” of fennel and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme, and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for 18 minutes. Fantastico! In addition to brilliant dishes, we had some brilliant chefs in the kitchen that lesson. CJ was in the zone throughout the class, always staying near to wash the fennel, prepare the soaked bread, roll the meatballs, and stir the sauce. He has really developed a passion for cooking and a talent in the kitchen.

CJ washes and prepares the fennel bulb for our side dish.

CJ washes and prepares the fennel bulb for our side dish.

CJ and I discuss profound meatball methodologies and whatnot as I prepare mashed bread soaked in milk. The wet bread adds lightness and air to the meatballs.

CJ and I discuss profound meatball methodologies and whatnot as I prepare mashed bread soaked in milk. The wet bread adds lightness and air to the meatballs.

CJ scrapes the mashed, soaked bread into a bowl to be mixed with the remaining meatball ingredients.

CJ scrapes the mashed, soaked bread into a bowl to be mixed with the remaining meatball ingredients.

CJ, Marcus, and I pick thyme leaves to place in our meatball mixture.

CJ, Marcus, and I pick thyme leaves to place in our meatball mixture.

Marcus and I mix the meatball ingredients together. We used half ground turkey and half ground beef for texture and greater depth of flavor.

Marcus and I mix the meatball ingredients together. We used half ground turkey and half ground beef for texture and greater depth of flavor.

Since warm weather finally decided to come our way, some of the boys went out in the backyard to kick the soccer (I should say football, because that is the correct terminology) ball around. At one point, Lorenzo shouted, “My cup is missing! Where did my cup go?” Nobody could find the missing glass cup, and it was pronounced lost.

Later, when we sat down to enjoy a spectacular dinner as one large Jersey Italian family, Lorenzo asked Robert privately, “Did you throw my cup in the bushes?” Twenty yards behind Lorenzo’s seat lay a glass cup in front of the pachysandra. “Hmmm… let me think,” Robert replied. Mrs. Crawford overhead the interrogation, and asked Lorenzo what they were talking about. Lorenzo, of gentle nature and kind heart, trying to cover up the friend who threw his cup, replied, “Oh nothing, Mrs. Crawford. Robert and I are just talking about dogs.”

Chris, Robert, Marcus, and Andrew play soccer while the others put the finishing touches on our meal.

Chris, Robert, Marcus, and Andrew play soccer while the others put the finishing touches on our meal.

Andrew and Lorenzo set the table outside.

Andrew and Lorenzo set the table outside.

Buddies Aly and Halle pick basil to be used in our tomato sauce, and in our meatballs.

Buddies Aly and Halle pick basil to be used in our tomato sauce, and in our meatballs.

CJ stirs the fresh tomato sauce like a professional.

CJ stirs the fresh tomato sauce like a professional.

CJ adds veggies (fresh spinach, peas, and asparagus tips) to the tomato sauce.

CJ adds veggies (fresh spinach, peas, and asparagus tips) to the tomato sauce.

Buon appetito!

Buon appetito!

Side note: I feel like I owe an apology for not posting this sooner. I was working as a translator overseas for some time, and didn’t have much computer access. Look out for the next cooking class update coming late April!

 

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