Did I catch your attention? I’m guessing there is no “perfect” meatball, as every one of us has amazingly different criteria and opinions on this topic. I’m not here to argue, just here to share, folks! Of all the blood I have in me (genetically speaking), I don’t believe there is a plasma drop of Italian. Yet spaghetti and meatballs remains one of my favorite things to cook and eat.
If you know me, you know that I don’t eat cheese at all. I won’t get into again, but I can’t eat most meatballs at restaurants because I can sniff out the cheese like a pig sniffs out truffles in a densely wooded wet forest. I do feel a little sorry for my husband, who has to endure meatballs without cheese at home. He gets by with a little help from his friends (namely parmesan cheese on top of the finished product).
Here’s my newest Spaghetti Meatball recipe. I paired it with bucatini this time, for something different. Bucatini masquerades as spaghetti, but it is hollow. I don’t know why I find that fun, but I do. I call it a Sunday dish, because you have to commit a few hours. I promise it’s easy, though! Cozy Sundays at home are conducive to this project.
Sunday Meatballs with Marinara
Makes approximately 3 dozen meatballs and 2 pints of sauce
For the Meat-a-Balls
2 slices stale bread
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground pork (or sausage)
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a few glugs of olive oil for the pan
(if you must, this is the time to add parmesan or Romano cheese, but obviously I do not)
For the Sauce
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
2 pints of tomato sauce (32 ounces; I use my canned tomatoes, but you can use regular canned tomatoes or tomato puree)
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon Italian dried herbs (I used lavender, basil, and oregano – use what you like best)
For the Pasta
12-ounce box of pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, vermicelli, whatever you have on hand)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
Preheat the oven to 425. You can also fry the meatballs in olive oil, but you need to continually turn them to ensure even browning. The oven does a nice job of that with limited active cooking time. Tear the bread into small pieces (1-inch cubes or smaller) and soak in milk. This ensures a juicy meatball, trust me. Let soak for 5 minutes. Cover a large cookie sheet pan with foil (trust me, this helps with clean-up) and pour a few glugs of olive oil and swirl it to coat the bottom evenly so the meatballs won’t stick. Be generous. This is not the time to skimp on the good fat! Add the ground pork, ground beef, eggs, salt and pepper. Combine with your hands. Form into balls approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter (you can use an ice cream scoop for more consistent sizing). Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Ovens do vary, so after 15 minutes, check to make sure they are not forming a hard crust. The best part is tasting them before adding them to the sauce.
While the meatballs cook, make the sauce. Add the olive oil to a large pot on medium heat, and add the onions and garlic. Cook 5-7 minutes until the onions start to brown. Add the tomato sauce, salt, and herbs. Stir to combine. Let come to a soft simmer, then turn to medium-low to low heat so the sauce cooks, but does not vigorously boil.
When the meatballs are done, taste for seasoning. I had to add more salt on top of them, but I adore salt. Then add the meatballs to the sauce. Keep the sauce at low, and you can simmer 5 minutes, or 1-2 hours for maximum melding of flavor.
Cook your pasta according to the box directions. When you’re ready to eat, plate it up. Serve with cheese and garlic bread for a full experience.
Try it. It’s well worth it for a lovely Sunday meal.