Daily photos by Patrice Stewart|
Leaders of the Italian American Marching Club get the New Orleans crowd ready to eat from a bowl of pasta with huge meatballs and 60 gallons of spaghetti sauce at the club’s celebration of St. Joseph’s Day.
Supersizing it in Big Easy
Italian-Americans celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with huge pasta bowl and meatballs, parade
By Patrice Stewart
Meatballs bring back memories.
My grandmother, a school lunchroom manager, often served them at her house and her school, where I attended first grade. During my childhood school vacations, the canned kind with spaghetti was a favorite lunchtime item. And later on, I made “porcupine meatballs” with rice in them for my children.
That’s probably why I was drawn to see — and taste — this 6-foot bowl of spaghetti and sauce with giant meatballs and plenty of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. While visiting New Orleans on March 9-10, I heard about the Italian American Marching Club’s plan for a pasta bowl that might be destined for a world record, so I headed to the Hilton Riverside to check it out.
Wearing red, white and green is a requirement for those participating in the Italian American Marching Club’s parade to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans.
I found a line of cooks pouring in bowl after bowl of pasta (300 pounds, they said) and 60 gallons of spaghetti sauce. Then the chefs brought out huge meatballs to add, along with plenty of Parmesan cheese. The grand marshal for their St. Joseph’s parade was introduced and told to begin stirring as musicians played Italian songs.
I got out my camera and stayed for lunch, figuring I might never get another chance at spaghetti stirred by Vincent Pastore, who played Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero for the first and second seasons of “The Sopranos.”
Several hundred men and women wearing red and green gobbled up plates of spaghetti and meatballs served with Italian bread and red wine.
Lynn Rose Cade and Robert Cade, a member of the Italian American Marching Club, invited me to sit with them, and she and her sister shared their versions of making meatballs.
Pat Perilloux said the secret to good meatballs is to use cheap ground beef.
“The lean stuff is too dry — you need fat,” she said. “You know us Italians; we’re cheap, anyway.”
Perilloux prefers to brown her meatballs by baking them in the oven until they are halfway done and then put them into her pasta sauce to finish cooking.
A member of the Italian American Marching Club gets ready to eat part of the huge meatball and spaghetti dish for the St. Joseph’s Day celebration in New Orleans.
Lynn Rose Cade, however, puts her meatballs directly into the sauce to cook.
“That makes them more tender,” she said.
Mardi Gras isn’t the end of the winter celebrations in New Orleans. St. Joseph’s Day is traditionally observed March 19, with St. Joseph’s tables and altars at churches and community centers a way of sharing food.
However, the Italian-American Marching Club celebrated March 10 so they could schedule a parade down Bourbon Street and through the French Quarter without getting in the way of the Irish-Americans and their St. Patrick’s parade March 17. This tradition has grown through the years, because just as St. Patrick’s Day brings out the Irish in everyone, St. Joseph’s Day brings out the Italian in everyone. They are honoring Mary’s spouse, Joseph, a carpenter and the patron saint of workers.
The parade centerpiece, along with a queen and her 80-member court, was a St. Joseph’s table float featuring food. Along the parade route, the men who belong to the Italian-American Marching Club gave out red, white and green beads and garters, fava beans (lucky beans) and silk roses, which came with a kiss.
Here are some meatball recipes you can try at home. Serve them with spaghetti or other types of pasta or rice, as well as a green salad and bread.
Taco Meatballs (low carb)
11/2 pounds ground beef (fairly lean)
1 package taco seasoning mix (Taco Bell, Ortega, etc.)
1 green onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 block sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Beat eggs and mix all ingredients except the cheese together. Mold a tablespoon of meat around a cube of cheese to form a small, shaped meatball. Repeat with all meat. Place on cookie sheet with edges (sprayed with Pam) and bake at 425 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes or until meat is done and cheese has melted. Makes 12 servings.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (21 ounces) pineapple juice
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup flour
To make the meatballs, mix all ingredients well and then roll into 1/2-inch balls. In a skillet, brown the meatballs slightly. Place them in a 2-quart casserole dish. To make the sauce, mix ingredients together and pour over meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Italian Meatballs with Peppers
1 pound ground sirloin
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon MAGGI Instant Chicken Bouillon
1½ cups (12-ounce can) Nestle Carnation evaporated fat-free milk, divided
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot cooked rice
Chopped fresh parsley
Combine sirloin, onion, herb seasoning and salt in large bowl; form mixture into 24 one-inch meatballs. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove meatballs from skillet; keep warm.
Add bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and bouillon to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Combine 1 tablespoon evaporated milk and flour in small bowl; add to skillet. Gradually stir in remaining evaporated milk; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Add meatballs to skillet; stir to coat. Serve over rice (or pasta, noodles or your preference). Garnish with parsley. Makes 6 servings. Serve with a crisp salad.
1 egg, beaten
1 can zesty tomato soup
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup long grain rice
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Combine egg and 1/4 cup soup. Stir in uncooked rice, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add beef. Mix well. Shape into balls and place in casserole dish. Mix remaining soup with Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 cup water. Pour over meatballs. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 15 minutes more.
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