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Former Saultite honours her Nonna Ortenzia with recipe for meatballs

Find out how to make Emily Richards' Nonna Ortenzia's Meatballs and tomato sauce. And what wines to serve with it

Emily Richards is a well-known food writer and chef who has been involved with the Canadian Living Test Kitchen and now can be found on her own Blogspot

As she explains on her site, she has her Bachelor of Science in Home Economics specializing in food and nutrition. She goes on to explain, “I am a cookbook author and I develop and test recipes for magazines, cookbooks, food companies and grocery stores. I enjoy creating and sharing easy recipes with family and friends.” 

Emily is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, and in her cookbook, Per La Famiglia, Memories and recipes of Southern Italian Home Cooking she pays tribute to her roots.

In fact, her recipe for pizzelle is actually titled “Tie Plates”, a term rarely used outside northern Ontario, and especially the Soo. The Italian immigrant workers who worked at the Steel Mill would take the thin small plates of steel used to join the rails on top of the ties and fashion pizzelle irons from them. Growing up, I didn’t even know they had another name!  

Per La Famiglia is awaiting another printing – though it is available at the Library. The following recipes, ‘Nonna Ortenzia’s Meatballs’ and the accompanying Pasta Sauce reflect Emily’s debt to and affection for her Nonna, Ortenzia Fata.   

Note: Since the sauce takes a couple of hours to cook, it makes sense to do this ahead of time, and, as Emily suggests, you can re-heat it to a simmer, add your meatballs, and let the meatballs cook for about 10 minutes while you cook your pasta. 

Nonna Ortenzia’s Meatballs 


  • 8 oz. (250 g) ground veal or beef 
  • 8 oz. (250 g) ground pork 
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml.) fresh bread crumbs* 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) finely chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley 
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt 
  • Pinch of hot pepper flakes 

*Emily explains that if you don’t have fresh breadcrumbs, you can soak some stale bread in milk or water and break up into small pieces and add it to the meat mixture. 


Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. (180° C) Line a baking sheet with foil 

In a large bowl, mix together veal, pork, bread crumbs, egg, parsley, parmesan, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes until well-combined. 

Using wet hands, roll the meat mixture into 1-inch (2.5 cm. balls and place on the foil-lined baking sheet. 

Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes or until no longer pink inside, but not browned. (We actually placed them on a raised rack over the sheet to bake, and turned them once half-way through the cooking)  

Remove from the oven, and then, as mentioned above, add to the simmering sauce and cook for about 10 minutes just before serving. 

Homemade Tomato Sauce (Sugo Fatto in Casa) 


  • 2 28 0z. (796 ml) cans Plum tomatoes –the San Marzano brand is excellent. 
  • 6 sprigs fresh Italian parsley 
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil  
  • 1 small onion, halved 
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved (we cheated, and cut them in four!) 
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) dried oregano  
  • 2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes 


In a food mill or blender, purée tomatoes until smooth, and then pour into a large saucepan. Add parsley, basil, onion, garlic, oil, oregano, salt and hot pepper flakes. 

Bring to a boil, and then cover, reducing the heat to medium-low. Cook for about two hours, or until reduced slightly and thickened. 

As mentioned, the sauce can be prepared ahead of time, and re-heated. If you are going to serve it when you make it, then just add the meatballs to cook at a simmer as you cook your pasta. We like using rotini, to catch all that good sauce, but just use your favourite. 


Emily’s latest cookbook, written with Sylvia Kong, is The Best of Bridge – 5 Ingredient Cooking, available in stores and at Indigo or Amazon. There are 125 recipes to choose from in the ‘Best of Bridge’ style. 


A good, lively Italian red is just the ticket with this pasta and meatball dish. Fantini makes a wicked good Farnese Montepuciano d’Abruzzo that I have recommended before for just $8.95. (In the U.S., the S.R.P. is $11, and the Wine Spectator calls it a ‘Best Buy’.) Fantini also has the Farnese Numero Uno Primitivo, $12.95, from Puglia. It has some tannins which will play well against the flavours of the sauce, yet the fruit is deep and plummy in this wine which technically comes from a grape identical to Zinfandel. 

Passi Reali Appasimento Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, $14.90, is a very good organic alternative. Made from partially dried grapes (Appasimento), this is a mid-weight wine with decent cherry/ plum/ raisin notes with the suggestion of licorice and vanilla at the end. 

Gabbiano Cavaliere d’Oro Chianti Classico, usually $18.95, is $3 off at $15.95 through Sunday, Nov. 29. Here, the flavours of juicy cherry are modified by meaty and leathery accents, with a lemony citrus element coming into play on the finish.  

At the Wine Rack  

If you are looking for an excellent Ontario red at a reasonable price, be sure to try the Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve reds available in the Metro store. Both the 2017 Merlot and the 2017 Red Meritage can be had for $25.95 each. 

The Merlot is sleek, but firm with bright, delicious fruit leading to accents of chocolate before lip-smacking tannins clinch the finish. The Red Meritage is all harmony from the moment you pour a glass and take that first sip. It is luxuriously smooth and integrated with a sweet core of fruit and uniform flavours throughout. At the end, polished tannins make their presence known, exactly as they should. 

Nov. 28 Vintages Release 

This is the second last release of the year heading into the holidays. It features some very attractive wines at every price range from as low as $12 to as high as $205. 


Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2019, $16.95, from the Loire is a good bet. WineAlign’s David Lawrason says it “packs in some complexity and richness without numbing sauvignon character. Expect very lifted spearmint, lime, dill and caper scents. It’s medium-bodied, fresh and lively, yet broad and almost creamy with excellent flavour depth” - 90 

Sperling Market White 2018, $17.95, is a B.C. blend featuring 45 per cent Bacchus, a grape created by crossing some German varietals including Riesling. There is also 45 per cent Pinot Blanc and 10 per cent Riesling. Expect a dry, nicely balanced wine with “aromas and flavours of apple, melon and spice” suggests the - 90 

Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2018, $21.95, is a well-made Californian throwback to the time when Chardonnays were intentionally well-oaked and buttery. Though one reviewer suggested that with its “old school richness” it was like “chewing on an oak stave and a roasted vanilla bean,” another review, Loren Sonkin, confessed that at a 2019 tasting it was the crowd favourite, drinking easy with some complexity, carrying grapefruit notes and a touch of sweetness. 

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2018, $44.95, represents the second edition of this recently resurrected flagship wine in the Arterra portfolio. It is made by Thomas Bachelder, a specialist in the Burgundy varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Thomas was the original winemaker for le Clos Jordanne, and is back at the helm again. Nuanced, clean, and textured, this white is ethereally light and creamy, very much in the classic French style. Lemon citrus is sleekly integrated, and the finish is expansive and quietly satisfying. None is destined for Sault Ste. Marie, but you could order in on-line on Saturday the 28th.  


Portugal continues to offer sound and enjoyable red wines at fire-sale prices. From the Lisbos region and new to the Vintages portfolio is the Ruelas Reserva Red 2019, $11.95. The explains it is “medium+ with more ripe dark cherry, sweet spice and some raisiny flavours to go along with fresh, balanced acidity and supple, slightly chalky tannins.”  

Fuiza Eminente Reserva Tinto 2017, $15.95, come from the Tejo. It is “serious and structured” with “rich, black plum fruits and layers of acidity” with juicy sensations emerging in the aftertaste, according to Roger Voss of the Wine Enthusiast - 90

The Bean Coffee Pinotage 2019, $15.95, is a South African specialty wine in which carefully charred barrels have imparted a coffee-like character. This example is a “Double Gold” winner, which would suggest it was “Best In Class”. Expect some chocolate, oak and dark fruit. Vintages tells us it is “creamy and richly textured with good acidity.” 

Puglia’s Amastuola Primitivio 2016, $16.95, would be a great option for Nonna Ortenzia’s Meatballs and the Homemade Sauce. With a gold medal from the 2019 Sommelier Wine Awards, it had appreciative remarks from many sommelier judges who found it dry, but fresh with good fruit. Group leader Carlos Ferreira felt that it had interesting notes of “olives, pine and eucalyptus, as well as some rosemary, all leading to a long fresh finish with black fruits and good acidity.” 

Xavier Vignon is one of the most reliable producers of good and affordable red wines in the region, and the organic Côtes Du Rhône 2018, $17.95, solidifies that assessment. James Suckling writes, “A bright nose with violets and blueberries, leading to a palate with very fresh and juicy dark-cherry and cassis flavours and fine, succulent and even-paced tannins. - 91

Sunrock Red Meritage 2018, $34.95, from the Okanagan Valley is predominantly Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc playing supportive roles. Deep ruby to purple in colour, the wine is quite integrated with a sweet core of strawberry blackberry fruit. A bit of leather and tobacco surface towards the end, and, as expected, fine tannins kick in on the finish. It is only available in Flagship Stores (hence Ottawa and Toronto), but you can check on Saturday to see if you can order it online. 

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2018, $44.95, is the counterpart to the Chardonnay reviewed above. Like the white, every effort is made to allow the grape to express its character – nothing over-the-top, but all in fine balance. Cherry-like fruit and sandalwood spice flow gently along the palate, continuing to express themselves well after you have swallowed and the feathery tannins come across like a soft blanket over your tongue. Classic, sophisticated, and pure.