Nothing says “I love you” like sauce and balls, except maybe when you say “I love you” out loud. Go figure.
As I have said previously, I have a few versions of Italian sauce with meatballs. The meatballs in this recipe are mine; I winged it (I wang it? I had wung it?) based on my go-to recipe, and I came up with a keeper. Like a lot of Italian cooking, it’s a matter of talking to people, trading ideas, yelling to some degree, drinking more wine, and then putting it all together to get a kick-ass meal for which everyone wants to give you a reach around.
The sauce recipe is from a book my brother bought me for XMas called The Meatball Shop Cookbook (http://www.themeatballshop.com/). Like all of the cookbooks I get from my brother, it’s exceptional. And today is his 105th birthday, so I figured I’d make it a tribute of sorts.
The wife and I are in the midst of doing Weight Watchers, so most good Italian food is out the window. But, for tonight, I made a low-carb veggie pasta, and the sauce and balls aren’t bad. We controlled the portions, so we won’t be too off for indulging a bit.
The Sauce (basically the “Classic Tomato Sauce” from The Meatball Shop Cookbook):
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped with their juices
(Note: I have a big-ass cast iron pot/ Dutch oven that I got at T.J. Maxx that does the trick for everything, especially sauce).
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Cook them for a few minutes, and then add the bay leaf, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper. Cook this for 8 more minutes until the onions are soft and translucent and happy, stirring fairly often. Add the tomato paste and cook this for a few more minutes, stirring often. Add the chopped tomatoes and get this to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook it for another hour, stirring every so often to keep it from sticking to the pot. If you want to time it right, have the meatballs done after 45 minutes of the sauce cooking, and have the pasta cooked by the time the hour’s up. Taste the sauce for salt before you serve it. Pass the parmigiano.
1 lb. ground beef (I even used 90% lean and it was awesome.)
3 cloves garlic, minced well
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. dill
1/2 cup parmesan
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup dried bread crumbs
a drizzle of olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the meat and the breadcrumbs. Add in the meat, and then add in 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs. Wash your hands and then mix this with your hand by squishing it all together with reckless abandon. The key is this: meatballs need to be wet, to a degree. If it’s too dry, add some water or milk. If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it’s right, your hand should be wet a bit after you squish…you’ll know when you feel it. If it feels paste-y, it’s too dry.
Take a 9″x 9″ baking dish (or something like it), and spray it with cooking spray or grease it. Take about a 1/3 cup of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball, about the size in between a golf ball and a baseball. Keep a glass of water near you to moisten your hands as you do it. Repeat this until you’ve rolled all of the balls and have them fairly snug in the baking dish. Drizzle them with olive oil. Bake this for 20 minutes.
When ’tis done, remove the dish and put the balls in the simmering sauce for another 15+ minutes. To serve, remove the balls to a separate dish and top with some of the sauce.
These are great for sandwiches or for pasta, so knock yourself out. Pass the parmigiano.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013