Clarification, homemade sauce with spinach and Parmesan meatballs.
For two weeks I have been craving spaghetti and meatballs, which is strange because it was a dish I hardly enjoyed as a kid. My dad always made us spaghetti, but he always opted for meat sauce. When we were little little, my mother used to make me and all 5 of my siblings take our shirts off when spaghetti was on the menu, that way she would not have to deal with tedious stain removals from our clothes. Things still got messy. I do remember the one time my mother hosted a spaghetti dinner. . .almost all of our church members attended as well as our priest! We aren’t even Italian! Just Catholic. Same thing almost. I remember she made meatballs for the occasion which were then gone in 60 seconds.
Sometimes when I am bored and very hungry at work I will search meatballs on Pinterest and Food Gawker. It’s only a little bit awkward when a coworker sneaks up behind you and asks why you are drooling at balls of meat. (I do this on a weekly basis, including today.)
Today I am finally going to put that craving to bed! I took the afternoon to help Jonathan move into his temporary place today. Having a semi-free afternoon meant adequate time to make HOMEMADE pasta sauce and baked meatballs. These days I am trying to stray away from buying things in a can or jar due to excess salts, sugars, and preservative. Plus, fresh is pretty much always better than the real thing. I also like being able to gloat, ‘yeah I made that. . . FROM SCRATCH!!). Aside from fresh basil which I bought from the store, I had all the ingredients lying around to make a garden sauce at home.
The only other 2 items I had to purchase for this were ground beef and a small (6 oz) can of tomato paste.
I didn’t really follow an exact recipe, but rather made things up as I went. I feel like if you have an understanding of the main food components of specific cultures then the rest is easy. I am making Italian food. Hmmmm should I use tomatoes and fresh herbs? Why yes. I also feel like once you have an understanding of what flavors work well together and how they work, making things up as you go isn’t so much a blindfolded walk in the park.
For Spaghetti Sauce
5 large red tomatoes, quartered then halved
1 handful (about 1 cup) yellow sunburst tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet yellow onion, quartered then halved
1 entire bulb of garlic, crushed
10 fresh basil leaves
6 oz tomato paste
1 tbs brown sugar
generous amounts of kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb ground chuck beef ~80% lean
1 cup finely chopped spinach
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
2 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs red pepper flakes
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs black pepper
- Chop vegetables as specified and layer into a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tbs) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Give a good mix with you hands making sure everything is nicely coated in olive oil. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. You may be thinking, ‘”Whatttt brown sugar?” it gives the sauce a sweetness that nicely compliments the basil! I remember when my friend John was explaining to me his pizza sauce recipe, he said a tablespoon of sugar was his secret ingredient. in this case it is not a secret!
- Roast your vegetable in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes. Be sure to toss around with a spoon every 15 minutes. Your kitchen should smell like Little Italy be now and you may or may not be talking to yourself in an Italian accent.
- When vegetables are done roasting, transfer to a blender and pulse for about 20 seconds.
- In a large saucepan, saute your chopped green bell pepper. I do not include the pepper in the roasting process because I like having chunks in my sauce. I also did not want the peppers to alter the color of the sauce.
- Add your blended spaghetti sauce to the pan with green peppers along with a small can of tomato paste. Stir until the paste is incorporated with the rest of the sauce, deepened the reddish color. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- I transferred the sauce to a crock pot set on low to keep warm for a long period of time since dinner would not be for several hours later. You can now begin the meatballs!
- In a large mixing bowl, assemble your meatball ingredients: ground beef, breadcrumbs, chopped spinach, cheeses, garlic powder, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 egg.
- Mix all ingredient with your hands. Some people get grossed out by touching raw meat, but for some reason I really like it as long as it’s red meat. I guess it makes me think back to the days when I’d help my dad make hamburger patties. I swear, everything I like to cook is associated with some sort of childhood memory!
- Once your meat is mixed in with the other ingredients, form into balls resembling the size of a golf ball. this recipe should yield around 11-12.
- In a saucepan using a very small amount of olive oil, lightly brown the meatballs on each side. Be sure to pay attention! I accidentally burnt a few, but no worries! It still tastes good!
- Transfer meatballs to a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until fully cooked.
- Once finished, transfer to the crock pot of sauce to keep warm.
These meat balls are delicious! Now all you have to do is boil water and cook your pasta! If you’re feeling really fancy, bake some garlic bread! Oh man! I can’t wait to eat the final final product!!
(You could easily make this vegetarian/vegan by leaving out the meatball part or by subbing tempeh! )