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Cooks' Exchange: Meatball recipes from around the world

Cooks' Exchange: Meatball recipes from around the world


Have you ever wondered where hamburger is from?

If you grew up in Madison, as a youngster you’d give a quick thought to Oscar Mayer & Company. My father, Mike Tripalin, was attending college during the late 1920s with hopes of becoming a teacher and athletic coach. Midway through his plan, his widowed mother, my nonna, became ill and he returned home to be with her until she recovered. In the meantime, Daddy needed a job and was hired by the meatpacking plant to drive one of their ice trucks delivering ice to homes with window posters showing the amount of ice needed. Before long, his personality and work ethic was recognized by meatpacking officers who offered him a position in beef sales, a job he enjoyed so much that he decided not to return to college. Instead, he retired from Oscar Mayer 40 years later.

Neeedless to say, we ate well through the years and learned along the way that hamburger had roots in Hamburg, Germany, where the meat was shredded and eaten raw as steak tartare.

German immigrants were encouraged to bring the beef patty to America where it was introduced to the public at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Americans added a bun and since the 1920s, hamburgers have been America’s favorite form of meat.

With Daddy being an immigrant from Sicily, meatballs played an important role when growing up for me because what’s spaghetti without meatballs?

Readers today continue to share their own ethnic meatball recipes with different seasonings and ingredients.

While traveling in Norway during the 1960s, Marcia Topel, Madison, purchased a small cookbook in search of meatball recipes and discovered what she describes as being “unique.”

Kjottfarse (forcemeat or stuffing)

Mince 2 pounds of lean beef 10 times. Add 1 tablespoon potato- or cornflour and 1 tablespoon salt during final mincing. Stir in a large bowl with a wooden spoon adding gradually 1 quart cold boiled milk. This may be done with an electric mixer. The liquid should be added a spoonful at a time to begin with, increasing the amount as one goes along. Finally work in 4 ounces grated suet. Grease a pudding basin or mould, fill with forcemeat and steam for about 1 hour. Serve with a piquant brown sauce or celery sauce.

The forcemeat may also be made into balls, taking a tablespoon for each meat ball. Simmer in stock or salted water for about 5 minutes. For meat cakes, take a heaped tablespoon forcemeat, flatten out and fry both sides in hot butter. Add water to the pan and make a sauce in which the meat cakes simmer a while.

Carole Stangler, Sun Prairie, describes these as being “very good.”

Holiday Swedish meatballs

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground veal

2 beaten eggs

1 tablespoon salt

¾ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

3 pinches sage

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 ½ slices dried bread crumbs

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 small onion

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon paprika

Oil for frying

1 can bouillon

1 can mushroom soup

Mix together first 12 ingredients and form in real small balls. Roll in 1 cup flour and 1 tablespoon paprika, brown in oil. Place balls in pan and pour over 1 can bouillon and 1 can mushroom soup. Bake covered at 300 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Makes 130 meatballs, Serve hot in warming dish.

Jeanne Hildebrandt-Keller, New Glarus shared that both of her grandmothers came from Norway and belonged to the East Koshkonong church. She makes several batches of these meatballs at a time and divides them into small containers to freeze.

Norwegian meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef

¼ pound ground fresh pork

1 egg

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 onion, minced

½ cup milk (can scald and cool, though not necessary)

¹⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg

dash of allspice

¹⁄8 teaspoon ginger

1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour

Mix all together and form into small balls.Can be browned in pan on stove or put in oven, adding water and simmering until done. To make gravy, add beef bouillon cubes and flour or cornstarch.

Years ago, one of Madison’s most popular and beloved restaurants closed. It was owned and operated by the late Joe Namio, the Sicilian-born restaurateur, who arrived here in 1928 as a youngster. In 1960, he established Namio’s Supper Club on South Park Street with Sicilian friends preparing food in the kitchen that will be remembered forever. One particular standout was the spaghetti and meatballs offered on Monday night for $1.50 including salad and rolls.

As featured in my Greenbush...remembered cookbook, “Spaghetti Corners and all that...Sauce!,” here is the meatball recipe, proudly shared for the book by his daughters, “Dede,” “Fluffy,” and Kathy.

Joe Namio’s Italian meatballs

2 ½ pounds ground beef

6 eggs

1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

½ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 large onion, chopped

Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Mix together by hand and mold into meatballs the size that pleases you most. Pan fry in oil until brown, then lower in spaghetti sauce and simmer for about an hour, stirring carefully now and then.

Not all meatballs require frying to brown before serving. Marietta Johannson’s “no browning recipe” from “Fan Fare II: Winning Recipes from Badger Fans!” will solve that problem.

Oven meatballs

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 cup corn flake crumbs

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 eggs

2 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¹⁄³ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons minced onion

16-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine first 9 ingredients and shape into about 48 small meatballs. Place in 9x13-inch baking pan. Combine last 3 ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Pour over meatballs. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Recent requests: There have been many requests for Jacobson Bros. potato salad, which is not available. Do you have one that comes close to what we all enjoyed for years?

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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