The Music of the Spheres

May 13 – May 19, 2019 


Monday:         Via Carota’s Insalata Verde / Avocado Toast 

spaghetti plate

Tuesday:         Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs 

Wednesday:    Spaghetti and Meatballs – better the second day 

steak 2

Thursday:       Butter Poached and Grilled Filet Mignon / Roasted Potatoes / Asparagus 

Country Potage

Friday:            Country Potage with Parmesan Toasts 

Andrew and I

Saturday:        NYC:  Dinner with Drew at Café Fiorello 

St. Paul

Sunday:          Late, very late return to Pittsburgh – and so to bed. 


“All art . . . aspires to the condition of music”

  • Walter Pater


Johannes Kepler, successor to Copernicus and predecessor to Newton, considered that there was a harmony or ‘music’ of the spheres or planets, a notion first floated by Pythagoras a couple of thousand years prior.  Kepler meant that there was a proportion between the planetary orbits (they fit inside a progression of regular polygons) that mimicked the proportions of musical harmony and the scale.  Pythagoras thought that each planet, and the moon, produced a distinct and definite hum.  I need hearing aids to listen to the evening news and will offer no opinion on the subject.

I come to these thoughts by way of reviewing the amazing events of last week, which included a trip to New York as guests of Ann and Chris to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra play at Lincoln Center, a dinner with Andrew at a fine, old-fashioned restaurant, and the music of our own spheres – turkey meatballs with spaghetti.  If all of this seems a little jumbled to those of you on the outside of my mind, just imagine how crazy it is here inside.

The PSO performed marvelously well, earning sustained applause from a sophisticated New York crowd (we’re talking actual hand-bruising waves of applause, endless returns to the stage by conductor and soloist, and so on).  Manfred Honeck is a great conductor and, if you don’t know him, get to a PSO concert to watch his dramatic and effective work.  Till Fellner, a fellow Austrian from Manfred’s home tome of Vienna, performed mightily as piano soloist for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5.  The relatively rational Beethoven was followed by an overwhelming rendition of mad Gustav Mahler’s Fifth symphony, leaving me to wonder if there’s anything our orchestra can’t do.  Beez, Ann, Chris and I spent a fine afternoon at David Geffen Hall.

We had previously spent a fine morning at St. Paul the Apostle, the headquarters church of the Paulist Fathers in NYC.  A newly ordained priest said the Mass and a truly fine cantor and the National Children’s Choir sang – a great prelude to the PSO.

The night before, Andrew traveled from Brooklyn to have dinner with us at Café Fiorello, the perfect spot for dinner before an evening concert (there is a Pavaroti room, among other dining areas) and serving amazingly good food at a pace and in such quantity that it doesn’t seem possible.  The waiters are pros, the crowd is mixed New York sophisticate and tourists and the atmosphere was perfect for a jovial family get together.

I suppose that what Pater meant (see the quotation above) is that all art would like to affect people as powerfully as music does – whether you’re knocked down by Mahler’s Fifth, jazzed up by Beethoven, or driven to a frenzy by ZZ Top.  Reaction to the other arts is typically in a lower key.  But now, let me introduce you to a pet theory of mine:  cooking is also an art.  Indeed, I have been known to weep over the perfect branzino filets at La Famiglia (Philadelphia) in the same way I did when I first heard Barber’s Adagio for strings.  Meatballs, on the other hand, are a cause for happiness and delight, more along the lines of the Prokofiev of Peter and the Wolf.  And the meatball recipe below, adapted from the ever-reliable Ina Garten, can be used with spaghetti, or served by itself as dinner or an appetizer.  The harmony of these meatballs with a good marinara sauce, spaghetti and red wine beats anything that Pythagoras ate.  The goof was a vegetarian.

spaghetti bowl


(adapted from Ina Garten)

Timing:                                                  1 hour

Ingredients:                                     Serves 4 – 6

1 ½ cups (1-inch diced) of crustless rustic bread, pulsed into breadcrumbs (I used Whole Foods Farm Loaf)

1/3 cup whole milk (we had to use a little more to get the right moisture content)

1 pound, ground turkey (get ground dark meat, if you can)

¼ pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed (we used about 1/3 pound of hot Italian – 2 links)

2 ounces thinly-sliced Prosciutto, finely chopped

½ cup grated Asiago plus more for serving (we used Pecorino Romano – the Asiago would have given the meatballs a little more edge and, if we didn’t have an abundance of the Pecorino, I would have used it)

¼ cup minced parsley

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (we used maybe ¾ teaspoon)

1 ½ tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for brushing the meatballs

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 cups marinara sauce (we used Rao’s jarred sauce – it’s really good)

1 pound dried spaghetti

Kosher salt and ground black pepper.


It’s important to get everything diced, chopped and measured ahead of time and to beat the egg and measure out the milk.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the breadcrumbs and milk and let stand for 5 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, sausage, prosciutto, bread mixture, Asiago (or Pecorino or Parmigiano), parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, ¾ teaspoon pepper.  Combine all of this lightly, being careful not to overmix (that would make your meatballs too dense – they would still be okay, but just okay).

Ina says to ‘Now add the olive oil and the egg and stir lightly into the mixture.’  We, in fact, put the egg and olive oil in with the other ingredients and mixed them all together from the get go.

Shape the mixture into 2-inch round meatballs and place on the sheet pan.

Brush each meatball with more olive oil and bake them until the tops are brown and they are cooked through – about 40 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the meatballs are finished, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer, then add the cooked meatballs and bring back to a simmer.

Cook the pasta until al dente, divide among four or six bowls and top with the meatballs and sauce.  Garnish with extra grated cheese.