Back in the Midwest our supper table saw its fair share of ground beef: sloppy joes and tacos, meatloaf, Hamburger Helper. In the round, however, our exposure was limited to Grandma’s occasional porcupine meatballs — beef and rice balls cooked and served in a seasoned tomato sauce. I want to think the secret ingredient was love, but have a sneaking suspicion it was condensed tomato soup. Regardless, wonderful, and a fun little glimpse into my late 80s and early 90s upbringing.
Then, a ways down the road, palates slightly more mature, came the introduction to Totero’s. It was a veritable step out of southeastern Wisconsin and into southern Italy, with as few frills as possible, in the best way imaginable. Sadly shuttered in 2014 after 75 years, this priceless gem and its family’s infallible, no-nonsense red sauce and cue ball-sized meatballs live on in memory to inspire great recipes.