Chef Dispirito and His Mama Nicoline Cook Italian

Meatball Hero (serves 4)


4 Pepperidge Farm Hearth Fired Artisan Rosemary Olive Oil Petite Loaves
4 cups Mamma's Marinara (see below)
8 fresh basil leaves
12 Mamma's Meatballs (see below), cut in half
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 thin slices mozzarella


Preheat the broiler. Scoop out the center of each loaf. Spoon a few tablespoons of marinara inside of the bread. Next, tear 2 basil leaves and place the pieces on top of the sauce in the bread. Put 6 meatball halves on each sandwich, leaving them open-face. Top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella. Place the sandwiches in the broiler/oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread crispy, about 5 minutes. Fold each sandwich together, if you can. Serve the sandwiches with extra marinara.

Mama's Marinara


3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 tbsp olive oil
Chili flakes to taste
2 28-ounce cans tomato puree, Red Pack brand if possible
1 28-ounce. can crushed tomatoes, Red Pack brand if possible
1 tbsp tomato paste, Red Pack brand if possible
1 tsp sugar
1 cup chicken stock
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste


1. Cook the garlic and onion in the olive oil in a sauce pot over a medium-low flame, about 10 minutes or until garlic is tender and onions translucent, not brown (this is called "sweating" because it will draw out a lot of moisture and flavor). Add the chili flakes to taste.

2. Add all the tomato products. Pour the chicken stock into one of the 28-oz cans. Fill it the rest of the way with water and add that and the sugar to the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and cover. Simmer the sauce for about 1 hour. The sauce should be fairly thin, but not watery and very smooth. Uncover and simmer for 3 minutes if it is too thin for your taste; add a little water if it seems thick.
Tip: Broiling Chicken
This is my favorite 5 ingredient/5 minute dish. It's the perfect combination of flavors, tastes amazing, and cooks underneath the broiler. Let it burn! That charred flavor is an important part of the dish.

Mama's Meat Balls


1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground veal
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
3-6 cups Mama's Marinara, or your favorite marinara
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


1. Place the chicken stock, onion, garlic and parsley in a blender of food processor and puree.

2. In a large bowl, combine the pureed stock mix, meat, bread crumbs, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, red pepper flakes, parsley and salt. Combine with both hands until mixture is uniform. Do not over mix.

3. Put a little olive oil on your hands and form mixture into balls a little larger than golf balls. They should be about ¼ cup each, though if you prefer bigger or smaller, it will only affect the browning time.

4. Pour about 1/2-inch of extra virgin olive oil into a straight-sided, 10-inch-wide sauté pan and heat over medium-high flame. Add the meatballs to the pan (working in batches if necessary) and brown meatballs, turning once. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

5. While the meatballs are browning, heat the marinara sauce in a stockpot over medium heat. Lift the meatballs out of the sauté pan with a slotted spoon and put them in the marinara sauce. Stir gently. Simmer for one hour.

6. Serve with a little extra Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top. Serve alone or over spaghetti (in which case, you will need 6 cups of marinara).