It is (sadly) rare these days for me to do a Food Friday — which should just go to show how extraordinary these meatballs are! These are so good, and so easy, that it would be sacrilege for me to not share this recipe.
I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, but finding dinner ideas — specifically, ideas for dinners that can be put together quickly, easily, and relatively mindlessly at the end of a looooong day of work-and-school-and-meetings-and-homework-and-emails-and-sports-and-events-and-everything-else — is challenging… to say the least. And to gather up the energy to get out of our food ruts in the deep dark delirium of a looooong winter is even more challenging. But this Spaghetti & Meatball dinner is so good and so easy that it’s solidified its own position in our family’s regular dinner rotation this winter. Which, my friends, is really saying a lot.
These meatballs are so good! Before these meatballs, in the prior ten years of his existence on this planet, Kyle wouldn’t touch any sort of ground meat. And before these meatballs, even though the rest of us aren’t quite as adverse to all-things-ground-meat, we’d eat meatballs if we had to, but it would never be a choice. Now, post-these-meatballs? Everything has changed. The world is a different place. We are a Spaghetti & Meatball loving family!
This recipe is the result of my own cutting-and-pasting-and-blending-together of a bunch of different recipes I’ve found over the years from a variety of sources. Mainly, this is the result of me trying to master the art of Spaghetti & Meatballs this winter… but (and this is a big ‘but’)… distilling that art down to an essence that is achievable by the Home Cook With A Non-Food-World Career. Fellow Mommy-Professors (and everyone else out there who doesn’t have time to grind their own meat and/or chop fresh herbs and/or make their own sauce, etc., etc., etc.) — if you are looking for a good, down-home, easy weeknight Spaghetti & Meatball recipe: this one’s for you!
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 pounds “meatloaf & meatball mix” (ground veal, beef, pork)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups Italian style seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup water
- your favorite off-the-shelf tomato sauce (our favorite is Classico Tomato & Basil)
- your favorite spaghetti (our favorite is Barilla Plus multigrain)
- Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large saute pan, add onions, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place pan over medium-high heat. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring only a couple times (for the most part, let the onions sit), until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes more.
- Put the following into a large bowl: the cooked onion mixture, meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and water. Mix this gently with your hands. Don’t over-work this, or “mush” it too much. You want it to be airy, barely holding together, and just barely all mixed together. Keeping it loose and light (not dense) is key!
- Form into meatballs — about the size of a golf ball — by gently shaping with hands. Don’t roll these in palms, or even try to make them too round. Just barely form them loosely into balls. Again, keeping these loose and light (not dense; barely holding together!) is key!
- TIP FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS: At this point, I separate out about 1/2 or 2/3 the meatballs to freeze. Wrap about a dozen meatballs in non-stick foil, put in freezer bags, and place in freezer. This will give us 1 or 2 other Spaghetti & Meatball dinners down the road… on nights even crazier than the one in which I’m making this batch of balls! I promise, you’ll thank me later for this one.
- Meanwhile… TO PREPARE THE DINNER: Get water boiling for the pasta. While that’s heating up, in the same pan in which you sautéed the onions (don’t even wash it), drizzle 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the pan). Heat the pan on medium-high heat, and add meatballs to pan. Let sit until they start to brown, then turn them 4-6 times to brown the meatballs on all sides. Important note: (Owen would say this is the most important point) the meatballs should be browned on their sides, but not cooked through (for Owen, the key is that they are not dried out at all; they should be very moist and soft and still a tiny bit pink in the center).
- PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER: Add pasta to boiling water. The pasta should boil for about 10 minutes (or however long the box says; I’ve learned to set the timer consistently and stick to right to the minimum amount of time it says on the box, in order to have perfectly cooked pasta every time). Right after you add the pasta to the water, cover the meatballs with sauce. It should take about 10 minutes for the sauce to heat through, the meatballs to just barely cook through the center, and the pasta to be ready to strain. As soon as the sauce is heated through, and the meatballs are cooked through, remove from heat and/or keep on the lowest setting of the stove.
- TO SERVE: Serve meatballs on top of spaghetti, with parmesan cheese. Or, serve the meatballs in sub rolls for meatball subs! Watch out!— if your family becomes converts to this meal like mine has, you’ll have to act fast to keep the meatballs from disappearing from the pan on the stove. The most recent time I made these for dinner (last week), half the meatballs had been stolen from the kitchen before we even sat down to eat. That’s how much Kyle and Owen love these!