Wish Upon A Dish: Good Ole Spaghetti and Meatballs

April 5, 2011

Good Ole Spaghetti and Meatballs

I should learn by now to not ask The Nudge if he wants anything special for dinner while sitting at the diner on Saturday mornings.

He always picks Spaghetti and Meatballs. I should just put it on the menu once a month.

It's OK though, because I need to make a fairly large batch of homemade meat-flavored sauce and when I have a chance to cook meatballs and sausages I take advantage and make at least 3 quarts of sauce.

With summer coming I really don't want a large pot of hot simmering anything in my kitchen. Best to do it now.

I have posted my recipe for meatballs at least 6x over this last year and I have not changed them at all because I am forbidden from doing so. Not even to use turkey meat to make it healthier.

I also do something that everything thinks is sooooooo wrong. I throw my meatballs into the sauce, raw. Yes, raw. You could bake them or fry them but we like a tender meatball and do not mind no crusty outside. Do what you feel is correct for you but I challenge you to try it. It keeps the stove clean and no extra pans to wash.

When you bake or fry them, you leach out the fat which to me keeps them tender and adds flavor. The fat gets skimmed at the end anyway, might as well use it.

I will brown the sausage at the beginning of making my sauce, and consider them the 1st layer.

I basically use a ground chuck about 80%. Since the fat will cook out and rise to the top to be skimmed, I really only want a good beef mixture. Some people buy what they call a "meatloaf mixture" which is veal, pork and beef. I just do not think there is a difference in the taste when you are cooking them in a sauce for over an hour and there is a big difference in the price.

Now, I am not talking about meatballs in general. I know there are now many restaurants that their menu is designed around the meatball. That's OK, a meatball can be made out of any meat rolled into a ball and cooked. If I were making just meatballs and no sauce, I would buy the blend.

Homemade 'Spaghetti and Meatballs' are a comfort, inexpensive meal made by someones Mom, for Sunday Supper and should stay that way. No child forgets his Mom's or Nonna's spaghetti and meatballs. It's even immortalized in the movies.

I am off my soapbox and on to the making of the sauce.

Sunday Gravy.......it simmers all day with a mixture of aromatics and spices, some wine and broth, cuts of meat and herbs until it becomes one.

There are as many different recipes and techniques for Sunday Gravy as there is for chicken and dumplings, turkey stuffing or bolognese.

Use any ingredients you like but the key to any sauce is to build layers of flavor. Season as you go, and DO NOT rush the cooking process. There is a reason why it simmers on the stove all day.

When I make a small batch like the one today using only meatballs and sausage it is done in about 90 minutes. If I go all the way for canning, I roast bones and let it simmer for at least 3 hours but I usually use the Crockpot overnight.

My Beef Meatballs
makes about 10 medium meatballs
* 1 pound ground chuck, 80%
* 1 small onion, minced or 3 small shallots
* 2 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1/4 cup ketchup, Low Sugar Heinz
* 1 tbls brown mustard
* 1 tsp thyme leaves
* 1/2 cup grated cheese, Romano or Parma
* 1/2 + cup of dry breadcrumbs, preferably made from potato bread (I make my own with the heels of an old loaf)
* 1 egg, beaten

Mix everything in a large bowl until well mixed. Using a large ice cream scoop, roll scooped meat into balls.
If you bake or fry them you need to drop them into the sauce for at least 30 minutes.

I have posted various sauce recipes from very basic, a long slow version to roasted tomato sauces. They are all good. In the summer when I can get very good tomatoes I will roast them and just toss with pasta (get recipe here).

My Basic Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs & Sausage
Makes about 2 quarts
* 2 pounds of good Italian sausage
* 1 tbls olive oil
* 1 large sweet onion, diced
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 large carrot, grated
* 1 tbls Italian Seasoning (I use McCormick brand)
* Freshly ground pepper
* 2 tbls tomato paste
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/3 cup white wine
* 3 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes, squished with your hands
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 1 small can regular tomato sauce

In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil. Add sausages and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Poke them with a toothpick so the skins don't split.

Add the onions, garlic, carrot, bay leaves and Italian seasonings. Saute until the bottom is brown with fond. Now we have a great flavor layer. Let's make more.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Once the brown bits release from the pan, reduce until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook until it turns a dark burgundy. Another layer of flavor.

Add the canned tomatoes and the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Place the jar off to one side, leaving about a 1" opening so sauce can start to evaporate. After 1 hour, remove the sausage, add the meatballs.

Before you add the meatballs you have to make a decision. First, remove the bay leaves. Assess the thickness of the sauce.....and if the sauce is thick enough for you as is, serve with spaghetti. If you want a thicker sauce, let it simmer uncovered until it thickens to your desired consistency. If you want a smoother sauce, grab that hand blender and smooth it out. Once you get the sauce to where you want it, add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes. I add a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes after I blend it and right before I add the meatballs. I like it smooth with a few chunks of tomatoes in it.

Simmer the sauce with the meatballs for at least 30 minutes. Add back the amount of sausage you want for this meal and freeze the rest. Lay them side by side in a zip bag and freeze them flat. When you need more just break off what you need.

I use mine for pizzas, in chilies, frittatas and stuffing for mushrooms and chicken.

Lots of grated cheese and a warmed semolina loaf of bread and dinner is served.


No comments :