The Unusual Condiment In Giada De Laurentiis' Italian Meatball Recipe

Giada De Laurentiis, one of the Food Network's most prolific stars, is one celebrity chef who isn't afraid of using old-school ingredients in novel ways. Luckily, the results usually end up being greater than the sum of their parts. Take, for example, her use of olive oil in oatmeal. Now the Italian-born, American-raised, cooking show host and friend of Bobby Flay, is turning to another old-school ingredient for the purpose of elevating a classic Italian dish, meatballs, to astonishing heights while keeping prep-time to a bare minimum of eight minutes (via Giadzy). 

But what makes De Laurentiis' use of this ingredient unusual is not merely that it's "old-school." It's also an uber-American condiment (via What It Means To Be An American), and it's often been maligned for being "not good enough" to put anywhere near good pasta. In fact, you probably won't believe that Giada De Laurentiis uses this unusual condiment in her Italian meatball recipe. But indeed she does, and once you think about it, you'll realize it's genius.

De Laurentiis isn't afraid of this condiment shortcut

Before revealing the unusual condiment Giada De Laurentiis uses in her 20-minute Italian meatball recipe, we need to prepare you. There is absolutely nothing fancy about it. And while it's not one of the surprising ingredients that high-end eateries are using, perhaps it should be. Now that we've learned De Laurentiis' shortcut to addictive meatball flavor, we're thinking how can she possibly be the only one using it? 

We're talking about ketchup, of course. And now that we've done a little digging, we totally get it. It's all about the umami. Umami is one of the five tastes that comprise the human palate, according to The New Yorker. Umami is a full-bodied savory taste that features, simultaneously, hints of mushroom, parmesan cheese, and soy sauce. But umami isn't just about flavor. According to Gary Beauchamp, head of Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center, "umami adds body." And thanks to Heinz, commercially available ketchup has become a not-so-secret umami shortcut, per The New Yorker.

But you don't have to believe us. You can find out for yourself in a mere 20 minutes just by following De Laurentiis' ketchup-leveraging recipe for meatballs. She adds her ketchup together with beef, cheese, eggs, and herbs in order to bind and form her meatballs. No milk or breadcrumbs necessary, like you might see in other recipes (via The Kitchn). According to Giada De Laurentiis, this is a shortcut for "a weeknight warrior."