I believe I’ve made twenty different types of meatballs over the last few years. Each time hoping I’ve come up with the perfect meatball recipe. I’m not sure there is such a thing, especially with my family’s diverse taste buds. However, I think I’ve come up with one darn good recipe that’ll be sure to please even the pickiest of meatball connoisseurs. And the best news is, they are easily prepared with minimum fuss and maximum flavor.
To save time, make a double batch and freeze half for another meal. Then, when you need a meal in a pinch, just thaw the frozen meatballs (or meatball mix) and bake as directed in the recipe. The meatballs also make a yummy appetizer for a casual dinner party. Hold the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish or warmer and serve with party picks for easy self serving.
I’ve included a simple tomato sauce recipe for the meatballs. This sauce can be doubled and then half of the sauce can be frozen for your next meal that requires a fresh tomato sauce. A quick tip: I often spend one weekend day a month making homemade tomato sauce. It’s easy to freeze and can be used in a multitude of recipes.
However, if time is a factor, feel free to substitute your favorite jarred sauce. Cooks Illustrated recently rated jarred pasta sauces. Bertolli’s Tomato and Basil Sauce won the highest recommendation for not being over seasoned and having a fresh tomato taste. If you’re looking for an organic sauce choice, my personal favorite is Muir Glen Cabernet Marinara. All the Muir Glen sauces are delicious and make suitable substitutions for homemade sauce. Bon Appetito!
Italian Meatballs and Simple Tomato Gravy
½ lb Ground Pork
½ lb Ground Beef
½ lb Ground Veal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs or seasoned bread crumbs mixed with 1/3 cup warm milk
¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 egg whisked
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
Mix lightly, all ingredients together with a spoon or hands. Form into tablespoon size balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process until all the meatball mixture has been used.
Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Remove from the oven and place the meatballs in the pot of tomato gravy. Serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with additional parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese.
Simple Tomato Gravy
1 28oz can tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes for a chunkier sauce)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano (or ½ tsp fresh chopped oregano)
1 tsp tomato paste
Pinch of red pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup water (keep on hand to thin out sauce)
Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and sauté the onions. When the onions have become translucent, add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant. Do not brown the garlic as it will taste bitter. Add the red wine and reduce by half.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste and red pepper. Mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Let the sauce simmer for about 5-10 minutes. If the sauce appears to think, add about ¼ cup of water at a time to thin the sauce. Taste for seasoning.
A few tips: If your sauce tastes a little to “bright” or has too much acidity, try adding a pat of butter to your sauce to mellow out the acid.
Although it is a rare occasion, I sometimes run out of staple ingredients such as garlic and Italian parsley. Not to worry. Simply substitute with a teaspoon of garlic powder and, either fresh chopped basil or a teaspoon of dried basil. Basil is not parsley, however, just like parsley, basil compliments the meatball mixtures flavor.