'Two Meatballs,' One-On-One

Top chefs Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman are stirring it up again in the kitchen.

Over the past 20 years, they've collaborated on and off, and now the pairing is on again, as they share, and squabble over, their passion for Italian cuisine.

Their new venture, a TV cooking series and companion book, is in the works. It's entitled (what else?), "The Two Meatballs."

To illustrate their different approaches, Luongo and Strausman take part in a cook-off, on The Early Show Tuesday.

Luongo has been described as a "temperamental Tuscan who's reverent about Italian food," and Strausman as a "feisty Jewish guy from Queens who wound up as one of the country's top Italian chefs." Quite the matchup!

Luongo is co-owner of New York City's acclaimed eatery, "Coco Pazzo," and author of the best-selling cookbook, "Simply Tuscan." Strausman is chef/co-owner of Coco Pazzo, and executive chef at the glamorous "Fred's" in the Barneys New York store, and author of "The Campagna Table."




There's perhaps no more stereotypical Italian-American dish than spaghetti and meatballs. Unfortunately, most Americans associate it with overcooked pasta and oversized, tasteless meatballs drowning in "red sauce."

This dish makes the idea of pasta and meatballs fresh again, with small veal meatballs, fresh tagliarini rather than dried spaghetti, and the addition of mushrooms, sweet peas, and mint. And no tomato sauce. It proves how much flavor and texture mushrooms add to almost any recipe.

3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil to fry the meatballs
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups White Button mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups fresh sweet peas or the smallest possible frozen peas
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
6 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 pounds fresh tagliarini
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Place the meat in a bowl. Add half of the Parmigiano, the egg yolk, the bread crumbs, garlic and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly but delicately so as not to compress the meat, which will toughen it. Shape the mixture into meatballs 1/2 inch in diameter.

Heat enough canola oil to cover the meatballs in a deep sauté pan to a temperature of 375ºF. (A drop of water flicked into the oil will sizzle on contact.) Lower the meatballs into the oil and fry them for 3 to 4 minutes, rotating to cook on all sides. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to paper towels to drain.

Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the peas, toss and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock, the mint and the lemon zest. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Add the meatballs, toss well, and set aside, covered to keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1/4 cup cooking liquid, then drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Over very low heat, add the butter and the remaining Parmigiano, and a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Taste and adjust the seasoning and toss thoroughly, drizzling with the rest of the olive oil.

A young, sparkling Prosecco from the Veneto may seem an unusual selection for meatballs, but because these are made with veal, it's the perfect choice here.