Mary Ann Coviello learned a lot about cooking while growing up in an Italian family.
Her mom, the late Alice Occulto, had ancestors who hailed from Calabria, Italy, while Coviello’s father, Jerry, has Sicilian roots. And the combination gave Coviello a head start in the kitchen and a knack at preparing homemade, traditional Italian dinners. She still puts her own twist on things, however.
Take her recipe for Italian Spinach Meatballs, which earned the Dunmore resident a $50 grocery gift card. Coviello took a bit from her mother’s original instructions, mixed it with directions from a friend and topped it with her own tastes.
“This is a recipe I’m sure everyone has, but I just tweaked it a little bit,” Coviello said during a recent afternoon inside the home she shares with her husband, Frank. “You just put your own spin on it.”
The key to the recipe is how versatile it can be. Coviello used a half-sausage/half-sirloin mix, but cooks can swap in ground turkey for a healthier version. They also can use sweet or hot sausage in the recipe.
Coviello prepares appetizer-sized meatballs but sometimes makes the balls even smaller to add into Italian Wedding Soup, or she enlarges them for serving with marinara sauce. Different cheese also can be substituted depending on one’s taste.
“Mom always said locatelli (cheese),” Coviello said. “But I know some people might want Parmesan. It’s all about using what you like.”
Local Flavor learned one thing for sure during our time with the Coviellos: no one will leave hungry. Coviello prepared Italian Spinach Meatballs three ways for her guest: as an appetizer, with ground turkey in marinara sauce and inside Italian Wedding Soup. All three incarnations were flavorful and hearty enough on their own but also never overpowered other flavors when used in a dish. And the ones made with turkey were just as tasty as their counterparts. The recipe was a home run.
Coviello loves to cook and is known just as much for her soup and crock-pot recipes as she is for her homemade Italian dishes, such as Manacotti. She also enjoys baking — something else she attributed to her mom — and makes all kinds of cookies, including a coveted recipe for Chocolate Chip Cherry Cookies.
Her husband also is full-blooded Italian, she said, as well a great cook. Between their families, there are plenty of recipes to try and perfect. When they’re not volunteering throughout the region or giving back through UNICO, the two sometimes spend the whole day creating in the kitchen.
“We’re Italian,” Coviello said. “It’s what we do.”
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Mary Ann Coviello’s Italian Spinach Meatballs
1 pound loose, sweet sausage
1 pound ground sirloin
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 box frozen, chopped spinach
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons oregano
1 cup bread crumbs
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup locatelli cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook and drain spinach.
In a large bowl, mix meats, spinach, eggs, garlic, cheese and seasonings. Add bread crumbs a little at a time.
Form into small meatballs (appetizer size).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place meatballs on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn and bake for an additional 10 minutes.