I think every home cook probably has their own recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. It’s one of the first things I learned to cook and over the years I have tried so many recipes. I’ve fried meatballs, baked meatballs but my hands down favorite way to make meatballs is to cook them in the sauce. Meatballs cooked in the sauce lend a wonderfully rich and meaty flavor to the sauce they are cooked in and retain their tenderness in a way that fried meatballs never seem to.
When I am making meatballs and sauce I like to mix the meatball mixture, form them into balls and then refrigerate the meatballs while I make the sauce. When you let the meatballs chill in the fridge, they are less likely to fall apart when you drop them into the sauce and stir them around. I love meatballs because they are wonderfully adaptable. The meatballs I made last night were a basic, simple meatball that turns out flavorful, moist and fluffy. I like my meatballs on the light and small side, large meatballs seem like meat bombs to me.
-2 pounds ground beef (or meatball mix or a combination of beef, veal and pork)
-one small onion, pulsed finely in the food processor (or finely chopped by hand)
-2 pieces of bread, torn and soaked in 1 cup of milk. (I soaked my bread in the milk and then processed it in the food processor because I used homemade bread and the crust was a little thick)
-fresh or dried thyme (I used 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh from my thyme plant)
-1 cup grated parmesan
-1 beaten egg
-salt and pepper
In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, onion, bread and milk mash, thyme, parmesan, beaten egg and salt and pepper. Form into 2 inch meatballs and set the meatballs on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate the meatballs while you begin the sauce.
-1 large onion, diced
-3 carrots, grated with a box grater or food processor
-10 cloves of garlic, finely diced
-pat of butter
-4 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
-2 bay leaves
-palm full of red pepper flakes
-salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat until fragrant.
Add onions, carrots and garlic and lower heat to medium. Cook the onion/carrot/garlic mixture until all vegetables are completely softened. Watch carefully so the vegetables don’t caramelize, the goal is to make them completely soft so they will blend into the sauce, it should take around 15 minutes.
When the vegetables are softened, add a pat of butter and then add the four cans of crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring the sauce almost to a boil. You don’t want the bottom to scorch, but the sauce needs to be hot enough to cook the meatballs. Start adding the meatballs to the sauce. I add a few at a time and give them a chance to firm up a bit before adding more. You have to be careful when stirring the sauce once you start adding the meatballs so they don’t fall apart. Getting all the meatballs into the sauce should take around 10 minutes.
Once all the meatballs are in the sauce I partially cover the pot with a lid with a spoon stuck in it and lower the heat to medium low. I let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for about an hour but 30 minutes is sufficient.
We ate our meatballs over penne with a sprinkling or parmesan on top. Everybody had seconds and some of us spooned more sauce over our pasta half way through. I won’t say it’s the best meatballs and red sauce ever but it’s our favorite and we will be enjoying leftovers tonight. And when there is more sauce but not enough meatballs for everyone, I use a potato masher to work the meatballs into the sauce and we enjoy it as meat sauce.