Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

My sister is on bedrest in the final stages of her pregnancy, so for the past 2 weekends, I've brought over some meals for her to make foraging for food a bit easier. This past weekend, I figured it would be easier if I just invaded her kitchen and made the food there rather than trying to find some way of transporting gallons of sauce and meatballs.

When I was driving there, for some reason, I had that line from the old Alka-Seltzer commercial running through my head "That's a spicy meatball!"

Anyone else remember that gem from the 1970s?

However, for some reason, I kept hearing the line in Father Guido Sarducci's voice, remember him? Another gem from the 1970s/early-1980s.

So there you go, a little glimpse of the craziness inside my head. :)

I make spaghetti and meatballs fairly regularly now. My kids are thankfully past the picky-pasta phase. When they were younger, the only way they would accept spaghetti was coated with butter and parm cheese. They were vehemently anti-tomato sauce, which mystifies me. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods in all of its forms, sauce, dried, fresh and raw. A thick sauce, perfectly seasoned is a joy all on its own. I have, in fact, been known to skip the pasta and just eat a bowl of sauce, with garlic bread to sop up the remainders, of course!

This recipe is double what I usually make, so feel free to halve it if you feeding fewer hungry mouths.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Makes approximately 30 meatballs and 12 cups of sauce

  • 3 slices stale sandwich bread
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup bread soft crumbs (NOT panko style)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parm
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley), chopped
  • 5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped (about 2 T, loosely packed)
  • 1 t granulated garlic
  • 2 t sea salt, kosher salt or other large-crystal salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 2-1/2 lb. of ground meat - I like 1 lb. of straight ground chuck and about 1-1/2 lb. of what they call a "meatloaf mix" here, which is a combination of beef, pork and veal; sometimes I use ground turkey
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parm
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • 12 cups of marinara sauce
  • spaghetti, cooked

  1. Tear the bread into very small pieces or grate it with a box grater and soak it in the milk for about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add the bread crumbs and stir well. 
  3. Add the onion, garlic, grated parm, parsley, basil, granulated garlic, salt and pepper and mix well.
  4. Add the meat and - here's the fun part - squish it all together with your very clean hands. Be sure to mix everything very well.
  5. Add the 2 beaten eggs and squish some more until it is all one huge gloppy mess.
  6. Mix together 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup grated parm and 1 T Italian seasoning in a bowl.
  7. Grab a piece of meat mixture and roll into a golfball-sized ball. Take a little bit of the crumb mixture in the palm of your hand and roll the meatball in it. You don't want these meatballs coated so that they're breaded, but you want a bit of a dusting on them.
  8. Place the shaped meatball on a large plate.
  9. Repeat about 30 more times.
  10. Cover the meatballs with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to sit for 1 hour. 
  11. You can bake them in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or saute them in olive oil until browned.
  12. Once they're browned, add them to the pot of simmering sauce and let cook for another 45 minutes.
  13. Serve over spaghetti.

Marinara Sauce

makes about 12 cups of sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 T minced sundried tomato (I prefer the oil-packed ones)
  • 4 T tomato paste  
  • 4 (28 oz) cans of whole roma/plum tomatoes in juice 
  • Granulated garlic  
  • Italian seasoning
  • Dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of sugar 
  • Fresh basil for garnish
  1. In a large pot heat about 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add the onion and saute until it is soft and translucent.
  3. Toss in the chopped garlic and minced sundried tomato and cook until the garlic is fragrant, not burned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir really well together, breaking down the clump of tomato paste as best you can.
  5. Pour in the 4 cans of whole tomatoes, juice and all and with the flat end of a spatula or your trusty wooden spoon, mash down the tomatoes a little bit. 
  6. Cover, reduce the heat to low and let cook for about an hour. Stir it occasionally to make sure that the tomatoes aren't sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Add some seasoning. At this point I start with 1 T of dried Italian seasoning, 2 t dried basil, a pinch to 1/2 t of sugar, 1 t salt, a few grindings of cracked black pepper and 1 t granulated garlic (my new favorite seasoning agent ). 
  8. Stir thoroughly, let cook covered another 10 minutes and taste again and season until it's about where you want it.
  9. Cover and let cook another hour, stirring occasionally.
  10. After it has cooked for about 2 hours, puree it, either with your handy-dandy stick blender or in small batches in a blender or a food processor. If I had to choose between those two, I'd say go for the blender.
  11. Once the sauce is all pureed, it'll be nice and thick. Taste again for the final seasoning adjustment and if you are not using it for meatballs, let the sauce cook another hour and then serve.
  12. If you are using this sauce for the spaghetti and meatballs recipe, now is when you'd add the browned meatballs.

  • This sauce is phenomenal with pasta, on pizza, over spaghetti squash or in a lasagna. Half of this recipe (6 cups) works well in my lasagna, cooked in a 9 x 13 in. pan. (recipe to come)
  • This recipe does freeze very well, if you do make the full amount.
  • This recipe halves and even quarters very well for smaller meals.

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