I’m a meat sauce kinda girl.
I married a meatball kinda guy.
Consider this dinner one of the delicious compromises of marriage.
It took a while to find a meatball recipe that worked for me. Too often the I find the meatballs dry and a little flavorless. Short of going to my old standby, Italian Sausage (which I still think would make a fine addition to meatballs), I finally found that the combination of ground beef and ground pork gives great flavor and also enough fat to keep the meatballs from drying out.
For the sauce, I’ve taken a tip from my friend Cody and adapted my standard tomato sauce to include a nice generous cup of red wine. Flavor City.
Here’s what you need:
Ground Beef (80% lean), Ground Pork, Onions, Garlic, Egg, Parsley, Diced Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce*, Tomato Paste*, Bread Crumbs, Olive Oil, Worcesteshire Sauce, Red Wine, Parmesan/Romano Cheese, Fresh Parsley, Bay Leaves, Dried Oregano, Dried Basil, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt & Pepper, and Spaghetti.
Yes, I know this is a crazy amount of ingredients but what is shown is for both the meatballs and the homemade sauce. We’ll break it down as we go – and also in the Handy Dandy Shopping List – in case you want to make only the meatballs or the sauce.
*Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste – You may or may not need these depending on how long your sauce cooks and how it thickens. Sometimes I add both, sometimes I add only paste, this time I didn’t add either one. However, I like to always have them both at the ready so I can adjust my sauce’s thickness as it cooks.
The sauce needs at least an hour to cook so we’ll start there. As with every Italian Sauce I’ve ever made, the longer you cook it, the tastier it gets. Leftovers, the next day are even better! And you will have leftovers since this makes a huge pot of sauce…at least 6 servings.
Chop up one large onion.
Grab an extra large pot and pour 2-3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and translucent but not browned.
Peel 6 big, fat cloves of garlic. Yes, 6. Six. Sei in Italian.
Finely chop or mince the garlic into tiny pieces.
This sauce is going to cook for a while so it needs flavor that can stand up to the cooking. Don’t skimp on the garlic.
Add the garlic to the onions and saute for a minute or two.
For even more flavor, add 1 cup of full bodied red wine to the onions. I’d suggest using something like a Cabernet or Chianti. Cody suggests using Shiraz or a Shiraz-Cab blend. Pick a nice, full, flavorful wine that you’d be happy to drink. Pour yourself a glass to drink while you cook if you’d like. Just PLEASE don’t use that awful stuff they call “cooking wine”.
Cook the wine with the onions and garlic over medium heat until the wine has reduced by about half. This concentrates the flavor and cooks off the alcohol.
Time to add the rest of the ingredients. Add 2 (28 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes with all their juices and 2 (28 ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes.
For seasoning add 2 bay leaves, 1 Tablespoon of Dried Oregano, and 1 Tablespoon of Dried Basil.
Add Salt & Pepper to taste. You can also add a spoonful of sugar if you are bothered by the acidity of tomatoes.
Stir the sauce together, bring it to a nice bubble and then lower the heat so the sauce simmers (gentle bubbles). I like to put a lid 1/2 on the pot just to keep the sauce from bubbling all over the stove. Check in on the sauce every now and then and give it a stir to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
For the meatballs you’ll need the following ingredients:
Ground Beef(80% lean*), Ground Pork, Egg, Onion, Garlic, Parsley, Worcestershire Sauce, Olive Oil, Bread Crumbs, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt & Pepper.
NOTE: These ingredients were all pictured at the top of this post. However, I’ve separated them out here in case you just want to make the meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel an onion and cut it in half. Grate half of the onion into a large mixing bowl. One half onion should equal about 1/4 cup grated onion.
I’ve discovered that grating the onion is one of the secrets to moist meatballs. It not only gets the onion into very small pieces, but also gives you quite a bit of onion “juice” to moisten the mixture.
Chop up 3 cloves of garlic into VERY small pieces and add them to the onion.
Chop 1/4 a cup of fresh parsley into tiny pieces. The finer you can chop the ingredients for the meatballs, the better to get them all blended together.
Add the parsley to the onions and garlic.
Lightly beat one egg and add it to the bowl.
Using a grater with small holes, grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan or Romano Cheese. I’m using Pecorino Romano – lots of flavor.
Add the cheese to the bowl. Season with 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce.
Add 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
Pour in 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs…
Then stir to combine all of the ingredients BEFORE you add the meat. This is another trick to moist meatballs (and meatloaf).
Add 1 1/2 pounds ground beef and 1 1 /2 pounds ground pork. *It is important to use beef that is not more than 80% lean to get great flavor and also enough fat for moist meatballs.
Another note: my store usually doesn’t have packages of meat that are exact pound or pound and a half measurements. I don’t know why, but that’s the reality. Don’t get too caught up in exact measurements…something in the 1.25 – 1.5 pound range will be just fine.
Get right in there with your clean hands and gently mix everything together. Try not to smash the meat but be sure that it is thoroughly combined to have equal mixtures of beef and pork with all the other ingredients.
Cover 2 baking sheets with foil. Rub a bit of olive oil over the surface of the foil to keep the meatballs from sticking.
Scoop out a bit of the meat mixture and quickly roll it into a ball about the size or a golf ball.
This recipe makes about 30 meatballs.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until delicously, golden brown and cooked through.
Threaten your husband with severe bodily harm if he doesn’t quit eating the hot meatballs off the tray.
Go back to your sauce and decide if you like the thickness. Too thick? Add a bit of Tomato Sauce. Too thin? Add a few Tablespoons of Tomato Paste. Sorry there’s no photo…I was too busy guarding the meatballs. At this point you can also adjust the seasoning of the sauce for more herbs, salt, pepper, etc. to your taste.
Add the cooked meatballs to the big pot of sauce.
At this point, Cody would also want me to tell you to go put on some Frank Sinatra.
Let the meatballs hang out in the sauce for about 15-20 minutes. Take that time to cook some spaghetti in a big pot of boiling, salted water.
When the noodles are al dente – about 8 minutes or so, drain and dish them up with the sauce and several meatballs.
Serve with extra grated cheese and some fresh basil.
Here’s the recipe…you’re on your own for the Frank Sinatra.