One of my roommates’ diet consists of about 70% pasta, 20% bread, 7% cheese, and 3% spatzel. So, sometimes I like to cook just for her to sneak some vegetables into her diet. The best way to do that is via the classic spaghetti and meatballs.
I don’t always make sauce, but when I do, it only takes about 45 minutes or so. I used to think that a good marinara sauce was difficult to make. Now I see that’s it not all that difficult.
This sauce starts with the three most basic ingredients for any type of sauce: carrots, onions, and celery. Start by sautéing these in a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper until they soften down. This typically only takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Then I add the garlic, because what would an italian sauce be without garlic? Cook it for another 30 seconds until you can really start to smell the garlic. You don’t want to burn it.
After the vegetables are cooked down it’s time to add the liquids. All you need is a can of peeled whole tomatoes and a little bit of lemon juice. This will make more than enough sauce for the meatballs as well as a little extra to eat later. Then I add more salt, pepper, oregano, and a stem of fresh basil to cook down with the sauce. Dried basil probably works just as well, but I like throwing in the basil leaves and cooking them down.
Stir this up and let it cook for about 30-45 minutes and it’s pretty much done at that point.
From here, you can just try to crush up the tomatoes and have a sort of chunky tomato sauce. Or you can pour it bit by bit into a blender to make it smoother. But, if you’re like me, your parents have appliances that they don’t really use. Like our immersion blender!
This was the first time I got to use it so it was pretty exciting. I immersion blended the shit out of this until I got a nice smooth sauce with little to no chunks in it. I let the blender blend down the basil as well, but if you’re worried about clogging the blade or something just take it our and throw it away.
Now that the sauce is done, it’s time to move onto the meatballs. So what’s the most important thing about meatballs? The meat obviously. Since I am a frugal college student, I typically only use ground chuck for my filling (about 80% lean, 20% fat to get a nice fattiness even with just the beef). For this recipe I use a mixture of beef and hot italian sausage so there’s another combination for you. But if you can, the grand meatball trio has to be beef, pork, and veal. The holy trinity I might say. I think the best combination is about 2 parts beef, 1 part pork, and 1 part veal. But since I’ve only made meatballs like that once, I cannot attest how accurate that is.
The rest of the filling consists of bread crumbs, parmesan, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and an egg. Put all of this into a bowl and mix it by hand (literally by hand) until you have a nice pile of meat.
The consistency of these meatballs is imperative. If they’re too dry, then the meatballs won’t form. If they’re too wet, the meatballs will fall apart when you cook them. They need to be just wet enough that they’ll form balls. When the meatballs are too dry, then you can either add another egg or you can use a little bit of milk. If they’re two dry, you can add breadcrumbs or parmesan.
With the right pile-o-meat consistency, they can now be formed into little balls. They can be made as large or as small as you want, just remember that the larger they are, the more they have to cook. I typically take a small handful per meatball.
To cook these little balls of meaty goodness, just throw them in an oven at 400˚F and cook for 24 minutes (assuming yours are as big as mine). If you’re not cooking them on a rack like I am then you should probably turn them halfway through cooking to get a more even brown. When they’re done, throw them into your fresh made sauce and let them cook on low for a little bit.
You can serve these babies with spaghetti (or another one of your favorite pastas) or serve them by themselves as a nice little party appetizer.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- ½ large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 28oz can peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 stalk basil
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 2 tbs oregano
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add carrots, onions, and celery and saute until onions are transparent (6-8 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover, and let cook for 30-45 minutes. After cooking let cool down a bit and throw into a blender to blend down whole tomatoes to create a smooth sauce.
Beef and Italian Sausage Meatballs
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Makes 36 meatballs
- 2 lbs ground chuck
- 1 lbs Italian sausage
- ½ large white onion
- 2 clove garlic
- ½ cup basil
- ¼ cup parsley
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 ½ tsps salt
- 2 tsps pepper
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
In a bowl, combine ground chuck, italian sausage, onion, garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix together by hand. Once combined, roll out individual meatballs and place onto a baking sheet. Bake for 24 minutes or until cooked through. Add cooked meatballs to the marinara sauce above and serve.