Who’s your favorite hero?
〈if you don’t wanna read, scroll down to the spicy meatballs recipe〉
I’m not talking about superheroes.
I did classical studies when I was young. And for me there was only one hero worthy of the title.
Not the adventurous Ulysses and not Achilles the braggart.
Hector, solid and valiant, was my hero.
A guy who sticks to his gun even when he knows how it’s gonna end. Being cool around the world while Penelope’s at home alone is not my idea of heroism.
Then there was the hero I couldn’t stand. Aeneas.
One of the most boring and predictable demigods ever to come out of the pages of a book. I hope the poet Virgil can forgive me.
Aeneas and the idea of Latin pietas, doing the right thing out of a sense of duty and devotion to the gods, the homeland and the family, bored me as much as Hector exalted me.
Hector also did the right thing by sacrificing himself for his country and family.
Then why did Aeneas only provoke me deep yawns?
Probably in my sixteen girl’s head, I saw Aeneas like a hero without battlefield, one who gave up his queen to do the right thing, made him seem a bit of a loser.
Maybe you’re wondering what this is all about.
And although I could go on rambling for hours, I’ll come to the point. In these weeks of emergency Covid-19 I’ve been rethinking the concept of pietas in relation to a handful of heroes well camouflaged in their normal clothes.
At last the tale can begin -short, I swear! – of extraordinarily normal women and men until their pietas, their sense of duty, has revealed them as heroes.
Bologna and its people.
I live in Bologna, close to the University area that is well served by pushers, food shops and one small local market.
While the first disappeared with their customers, the shop owners kept stoically open. For this reason, with my husband, decided not to order our food online but to buy in the shops near home that, in certain dark moments of the Covid-19, seemed like a light of hope in the darkest night.
In these weeks, I’ve had time to reflect on the nuances of heroism and I’ve been thinking about the old Aeneas.
More heroic than many others, now I understand. There are red carpet heroes and those who hide their hero cloaks in the closet. Those of the second type rarely meet glory and groupies, they are heroes without fans.
There are many heroes like Aeneas around us.
For example, can you be a hero simply by continuing to do your own job?
Yeah, if you can choose to stay home and you don’t.
And this is what happened in Italy where everything seems – too often – only farce and mediocrity. Hospital staff and police have shown great value. But also conscientious teachers and ecological operators who, in the silence of the night, disinfected and cleaned the streets of the cities.
And then I’m thinking of the shopkeepers who, by guaranteeing a service, staying open and making home deliveries, have shown that Italians in terms of professionalism don’t have to take lessons from anyone. Hello German rigour, Nordic sobriety and hygge. If we play the mandolin, you keep your helmets with horns and all those guttural sounds that have inspired terror but no verse of the Dolce Stil Novo and Divine Comedy.
Butchers are also among the heroes of these weeks, guaranteeing a service and that people don’t go crazy. Yes, because buying food is part of our complex everyday life, and I feel gratitude for those who have preserved a part of it.
These meatballs are so good, you won’t be able to stop!
Spiced meatballs have a different taste from more traditional ones, which in Italy are usually cooked in tomato sauce.
This is not a recipe from my Grandma’s cookbook. And on the other hand, for her, meatballs were mostly a way to reuse leftovers. It wouldn’t have made sense for her to write the recipe since she didn’t know what she was going to use the next time. However, there were two recurring meatball recipes at home. One, unfortunately, was lost, the other – fortunately – was written by my mom and, sooner or later, I will put it on the blog.
When I developed my spicy meatball recipe, I was looking for a different flavor from more traditional ones “al syugo”. I wanted meatballs to be eaten in white, as an aperitif or for dinner and, for this reason, more tasty. Here I present them in combination with broad beans.
The mashed broad beans is a seasonal side dish idea to bring legumes on the table and add a touch of color as well as flavor. At home we loved it.
And it works well with spiced meatballs.
it’s time to wear the aprons.
Buona cucina, Monica
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You can also use frozen broad beans (same weight I indicated for fresh broad beans).
If you use frozen broad beans, boil them by transferring them directly from the freezer into boiling water.
If you have dried broad beans it’s ok but consider the soaking time.
Spiced Meatballs & Mashed Broad Beans Recipe
minced meat, 500g (400g beef+ 100g pork)
chopped red (or yellow) onion, 2 tablespoons
grated rind of half a lemon organic
ricotta cheese, 2 spoons
breadcrumbs, 80 g
nutmeg, about 1 teaspoon
sea salt to taste
Mashed broad beans
clean broad beans, 350g
yellow potato, 90g
2 poached garlic cloves
salt, olive oil q.b.
Cook the broad beans and the peeled and chopped potato in boiling salted water.
Drain and sauté the vegetables in a pan for 3-4 minutes, over medium heat and stirring, with lightly crushed poached garlic, olive oil and salt.
Turn off, remove the garlic, let it cool and mash with the minipimer.
If you prefer a slower mash, add water, a little at a time until you get the consistency you want. Add salt and set aside.
Mix all the ingredients to make the meatballs in a bowl. Add a sprinkling of If you don’t like nutmeg, replace with another spice (e.g. curry or cardamom powder).
Make the meatballs by forming small to medium balls and squeezing them lightly with the palm of your hand.
Cook in a pan with oil or a little butter. These meatballs should not be immersed in oil, just grease the bottom of the pan as you cook them.
Serve the meatballs spiced with hot mashed broad beans and, if you like, some berry jam which, trust me, will go well with both the meatballs and the mash.