Over the last week, I bet you gorged on plenty of turkey dinner leftovers. Myself, I feel like a butterball. All good things must come to an end, though, and I am cleaning out the fridge of what remains of them. I want nothing that tastes of Thanksgiving and am craving vegetables and different flavors.
You can’t beat a classic saucy bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, a timeless dish, bright with summer flavors of tomato and basil, yet comforting enough on a cold winter evening. Add buttery garlic bread and a green garden salad tossed with Italian dressing and home-made croutons.
This recipe instructs you how to make meatballs that are light and super tasty and a sauce which is rich and perfectly seasoned. I really like the prosciutto in them.
Preparing this is a labor of love, making it a good kitchen project for a weekend supper.
Timeless Spaghetti and Meatballs
Tomato Sauce Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 cans 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil or two sprigs of fresh basil
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low, add butter. Cook garlic and onion, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you add them to the pot, and their juices, add sugar, bay leaf and red wine vinegar; season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high; bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cover and simmer 90 minutes stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and keep warm while you prepare the meatballs.
3 thick slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped prosciutto or bacon
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more
1 pound ground beef chuck or moose, preferably 20% fat
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
12 ounces spaghetti
Salt for pasta water
Instructions: Saturate bread with cool water. Firmly wring out to expel as much water as possible. Finely chop, then mix in a large bowl with eggs, garlic, prosciutto or bacon, parsley, and ⅓ cup Parmesan.
Finely grind fennel seeds in spice mill or with mortar and pestle; add to bread mixture along with oregano, nutmeg, basil, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp. salt. Mix well. Add beef or moose and break up into small pieces with a fork. Mix gently with your hands until smooth and ingredients are evenly incorporated; be careful not to overmix.
Lightly oil your hands. Working one at a time, scoop out portions of meat mixture with a ¼-cup measuring cup; roll gently between your hands into balls. Compact meat mixture in your hands. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning and rolling occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add meatballs to warm sauce. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and remaining meatballs.
Cook meatballs in sauce (they should be mostly submerged) at a gentle simmer, 30 minutes.
Transfer meatballs to a clean baking sheet, cover with foil to keep warm. Remove fresh basil sprigs if added, from sauce. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to break up any large pieces of tomato and smooth out sauce.
Set aside 2 cups of sauce in a small bowl for serving.
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until done (al dente).
Using tongs, transfer spaghetti to pot of sauce. Gently stir, adding pasta cooking liquid by the tablespoonful if needed, until sauce coats pasta. Transfer spaghetti to a serving dish and top with meatballs and 1 cup reserved sauce. Sprinkle with more parmesan and serve with remaining sauce alongside for topping.
Let’s make gifts to give from the kitchen. Who doesn’t love soup and an easy recipe this time of year? The additional ingredients to add to this soup are essential items most folks have in their pantry.
Italian Beef Soup Mix for Gift Giving
1/2 cup dry split peas
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup uncooked small corkscrew pasta
Directions: In a 1 1/2 pint jar, layer the split peas, bouillon, barley, lentils, onion flakes, Italian seasoning, rice, and bay leaves. Wrap the pasta in plastic wrap, and place in the jar. Seal tightly.
Attach a label to the jar with these instructions:
Additional ingredients: 1 pound ground beef or small piece of stew meat, black pepper to taste, garlic powder to taste, 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes – undrained, 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste, and 3 quarts water.
To prepare soup: Remove pasta from top of jar, and set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, brown beef with pepper and garlic; drain excess fat.
Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and soup mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the pasta, cover, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta, peas, lentils and barley are tender.
Next week, I’ll share some recipes to ring in the holiday season and welcome in December.
Teri Robl is a longtime Homer resident who loves to cook for family and friends.