Photo by Cade Schmidt

I’m not a meat fan.


I occasionally will eat a steak, and of course I love burgers, but when I set out to make something, I don’t think it needs meat. Actually, I generally avoid making dishes featuring meat.


My dad, a steak-and-potatoes kind of guy, does not like me to cook for this reason.


Of course, he enjoys the food, but at the end of the meal I always hear the same question: So, why didn’t this have meat in it?
This dish is a little different because it is my dad’s recipe, and he loves meat. My dad makes these meatballs whenever I ask him to make his famous spaghetti.


The spaghetti is a full-day affair, and is something he says you can’t learn from a recipe. Growing up he made this dish a few times a year. 

The meatballs were, and continue to be, my favorite part of the spaghetti. I know he’ll never give me the spaghetti recipe, but last weekend I called my father to procure the meatball recipe.


Something I love about my dad is he doesn’t create a recipe, he creates an experience. That’s what I’m told when I ask for the spaghetti recipe: I can’t make it, it’s an experience.


Asking him for the meatball recipe was odd because all the ingredients had loose ends. While explaining he said, “Eh, one egg —but I do two. You can do one.”


When I asked about the croutons his response was, “Well I use Italian flavor, but these are your meatballs. You can use whatever flavor you want.” Every ingredient, except for the meat, was modified by “about” or “at least.” At least a cup of Parmesan cheese or about a cup of parsley.


I guess that’s my dad for you: food experiencer.


Recipes in his mind are useless.


Last week a friend, whose parents happen to be chefs, helped me make the meatballs. He told me that my dad’s recipe is superior to all other meatball recipes. That claim validated my childhood love for them.


Gene Thompson’s Italian Meatballs
Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: about 20


1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 bag of croutons, crushed
1 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and mix them with your hands.


Do not be afraid to get dirty. Make balls about the size of golf balls and place them on a baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes or until they are well done. Enjoy them in a pasta dish or just by themselves.