By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

March 9 is National Meatball Day, and if you are like me you probably already planned on attending the big Meatball Parade in downtown Kissimmee, maybe even snag an autograph from the Meatball Queen.

Okay, there isn’t a Meatball Parade or a Meatball Queen (but maybe there should be) but there is a National Meatball Day and the folks at Mama Mancini’s thought it would be a good time to get a plug in for their product, just recently introduced into Central Florida at Publix Supermarkets.

The plug included one of those Styrofoam containers, with two packages of Mama Mancini’s Meatballs under dry ice, which I did find rather surprising since I figured they would have sent a coupon or two.

I resisted looking into the rather large cardboard box, which still felt cool to the touch the entire day, and waited until I got home to see just what Mama Mancini’s Meatballs looked like. I knew there was no way these meatballs were going to make it until March 9.

The dry ice had pretty much disappeared by supper time, but the meatballs, gotta love ‘em, were still happily frozen in their containers, one beef meatball package and one turkey.

The illustration looked nice: a big platter of meatballs, covered in sauce, over a plate of spaghetti. Inside the box, I opened the beef variety, it wasn’t quite as colorful. The meatballs/sauce are packed in a loose plastic container and are placed in a plastic microwave-suitable container. You can also open the package, place in a sauce pan and follow directions for cooking on the stove.

Instead, I followed plan B, which is to poke a few holes in the plastic, replaced the meatballs in the plastic container and put in the microwave for a few minutes and then let stand.

I also had water boiling with pasta, a smaller version of rigatoni, with a different name. It was a 12-ounce package, because meatballs and sauce didn’t look sufficient for the usual 16-ounce box.

Pasta done, meatballs done, I simply cut open the plastic pouch with its eight meatballs and sauce, and poured it over the now cooked pasta.

At first I thought that maybe 12 ounces of pasta may have been a bit too much for this serving (the box says it serves four), but the sauce distributed itself over the pasta rather nicely. If you like a lot of sauce, I would recommend maybe just eight to ten ounces of pasta, but I was pretty happy with the results.

I was pretty happy with the meatballs too. Coming from an Italian American home, where meatballs seem to be a science, and take a while to prepare, Mama Mancini’s is a great way to have a quick pasta and meatball dinner in just matter of minutes.

The flavor is good. It looks good on the plate and these are good-sized meatball, and just like that package says, it will be feed a family of four, with everyone getting a nice sized serving.

As for that original family recipe, the all-natural ingredients look very much like the grandma used to make, with all-beef (or turkey), Italian plum tomatoes, pecorino Romano cheese, parsley, onions, eggs and bread crumbs all listed as ingredients.

And the really nice thing: There is still one whole package of meatballs in the freezer. And that’s a reason for a parade in my book.

Note: I am not making up National Meatball Day, it really is celebrated in March, though I couldn’t really find a reason why  it is celebrated and when it all started. But I am guessing cattle everywhere think it is one holiday humans could do without.  Meanwhile, as National Meatball day approaches, keep a close watch on area restaurants because several will probably add some meatball dish to the menu or have special discount.