Donatella Arpaia's Secrets For The Perfect Meatballs - Exclusive

Donatella Arpaia is a woman of many talents. She started her career as a lawyer before finding her way back to the family business of being a restaurateur. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Arpaia is no stranger to good Italian food. She spent her life surrounded by and learning from the best Italian grandmas, and as everyone knows, they are the ones who truly know how to make meatballs.

Now with her own culinary career, Arpaia wants to share the love with the world in the form of meatballs. Arpaia is the meatball queen, with her dishes winning awards left and right. Her meatballs also found their way onto the menu at her newest restaurant venture, Noma Beach at Redfish. Tasting Corner got the chance to talk to Arpaia in an exclusive interview to find out why her meatballs are so good and how fans can make them at home.

The method

The first thing Arpaia told Tasting Corner is that a good meatball can never be rushed. 

"It's extremely labor-intensive," Arpaia said. "I follow the method that my mother and grandmother taught me, which is small batch, and I do it in small batch cooking, only fresh ingredients. We don't take any shortcuts. I pan-fry them for the golden crust .... It's very labor-intensive and time-consuming." 

Pan-frying may take longer, but it gives Arpaia's meatballs that perfect crust on all sides, unlike baking or broiling. Additionally, despite the "bigger is better" attitude many people and places practice, Arpaia says this is not the case with meatballs. 

"Proportion size is very important. Too tiny, and it can be all crust," Arpaia said. "Too large, it's like ... we're not making meatloaf. We're making a meatball." Getting the proportions right helps to create a manageable and well-cooked meatball that will be pleasing to the eye and mouth.

Ingredients picked with care

Arpaia's secret is not just in the technique but also in the ingredients. She only uses fresh, quality ingredients. This starts with her meat, which is the star of any meatball. While most people may wonder what blend she uses, which has changed over the years, Arpaia focuses more on the quality of the meat. 

"Ground meat in general is not expensive, so go to the hormone-free, go for better-quality ground meat, not too fatty," Arpaia said. Next, she only uses fresh herbs for her meatballs, never dried. "I use fresh garlic," Arpaia said. "I use fresh herbs." Along with preferring fresh herbs over the likes of garlic power, Arpaia has another key ingredient that is best fresh. "I also use bread. I don't use breadcrumbs."

It is clear Arpaia places importance on fresh, quality ingredients and time. It is these things that set Arpaia's meatballs ahead of others. 

Noma Beach at Redfish is open now. To learn more about the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, visit their website.