When Michael and I first got married, he would forgo spaghetti night. He claims he ate too much of it as a child. Spaghetti was on the weekly menu rotation in our house too. Nonetheless, I could eat pasta every night!
I recall my mother making a huge pot of homemade sauce. The delightful smell of tomatoes and spices would permeate the house. I remember pretending I was the chef, adding a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. I would give it a good stir and a final taste, then walk away feeling proud of my accomplishment. Dinner was going to be good!
Eventually, Michael gave into spaghetti dinner. Oddly enough, it was for his birthday dinner. He wanted spaghetti and meatballs.
Keep in mind this may have been 15 years ago, I had a crappy job that kept me out of the house from 6 am-7pm. I didn’t have too much time to play around with food or anything else for all that matters. However, for his birthday, I would put in the extra effort.
Apparently I was over worked and under paid because I used cilantro instead of parsley in the meatballs. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice the pungent smell of the cilantro, maybe the red sauce simmering on the stovetop was overpowering the stench. It wasn’t until the meatballs were balled up and I cleaned up before I saw the herbs label. Oh man, birthday dinner was going to be ruined.
However, we had success. The cilantro did change the flavor profile a touch, but everyone cleaned their plate and the birthday boy was pleased. Even though dinner turned out alright, I double check the tag and smell the herbs in the store before bagging them up for the grocery cart.
Let’s get cooking with the RED SAUCE:
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 shallots or 2 cloves of garlic, minced*
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, depends on how spicy you like it
1/2 cup of white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
1-28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon of dried oregano or 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 cup of fresh basil, torn into little pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste.
*I am allergic to garlic. I know, I can’t believe it either. I swell, become terribly thirsty and sometimes nauseous. Instead of making myself miserable because of these flavorful nuggets, I replace them with shallots. Obviously, feel free to use the garlic!
Pour the can of tomatoes into a large bowl and use an emulsion blender to puree the tomatoes. Alternatively, use a food processor or blender for this job.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Sautee the shallots and the red pepper flake for about 2 minutes.
PREPARATION TIP: If you are using garlic, be careful not to burn the garlic. It will turn bitter. Melt the butter and olive oil over a medium heat. Have the wine ready to pour into the saucepan once the garlic becomes fragrant.
Pour in the white wine and reduce the liquid. This will take about 2 minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes, oregano and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the sauce for at least 45 minutes or until the sauce has become thicker. Give it a good stir occasionally.
Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes and then give it a taste. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Remember, you can always add salt, but you can’t take it out.
Time for the MEATBALLS:
1 1/2 pounds of 85% ground beef and ground pork mixture*
1/2 onion, finely grated
1/4 cup of fresh basil and oregano**
Salt and Pepper
*If you don’t dig on swine, use all ground beef. You could also mix in a 1/2 pound of ground chicken, veal or turkey.
**If you can’t find fresh oregano, use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.
In a large bowl, finely grate the onion. Add the meat mixture, torn basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Use your hands to get down and dirty with the meat.
This is a good time to pull out the kitchen scale if you have one. Making the meatballs the same weight will ensure even cooking times. I made my meatballs into 3 ounce balls.
PREPARATION TIP: At this point, you can stick a plate of these meatballs in the freezer to firm up before transferring them into a freezer bag for later use. They will keep for a month in the freezer in a tightly sealed container. If I freeze the balls, I skip the searing step and toss them right into the sauce until they reach 160 degrees.
In a cast iron skillet, sear the meatballs. This will help pull out some of the grease and hold the shape before you add them to the sauce
Politely add the meatballs one at a time to the simmering red sauce. Continue to cook until the meatballs reach 160 degrees on a thermometer.
PREPARATION TIP: If you don’t want to cook the meatballs in the sauce, stick the oven safe pan directly in to a 350 degree oven until they reach 160 degrees.
Fresh pasta is always a favorite in The Bell House. Since I started making fresh pasta, we eat less of it, but enjoy pasta nights so much more. Click here to watch the video for making fresh pasta.
Serve the pasta with a slice of homemade focaccia bread. Subscribe and you won’t miss the post for this decadent and easy bread that’s perfect for sopping up the left over sauce on the plate.
Also, try making meatball subs. Follow the directions for the meatballs and sauce, get some good French bread and provolone cheese. Split the French bread almost in half lengthwise. Add the sauce and the meatballs inside the sub roll, top with provolone cheese and send it back under the broiler until the cheese is nice and bubbly.
Dust with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and dig in!