Giant, fluffy meatballs simmered in a homemade tomato basil sauce, this classic dish will make you feel like an Italian grandmother.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most satisfying. Sure I love going out to eat and experimenting with exotic ingredients every now and then.
But for pure satisfaction and delight, nothing beats the classics. A pile of spaghetti noodles. A ladle of homemade tomato sauce, and three mounds of freshly prepared cheese and herb meatballs.
A big fork. A big napkin. A big table crowded with elbows.
These are the meals that feed our bodies and our souls. They trigger memories of childhood. They spark conversation. They make you lean over your plate, take a deep whiff in, and let out a little sigh. They’re the kind of meals that remind you to say grace, to join hands, to be thankful.
I’ve gotten so used to cracking open a jar and tearing into a frozen bag of meatballs, I’ve forgotten what a treasure real tomato sauce and meatballs really is. I’ll be honest with you, this isn’t a meal you want to plan for the busiest, most stressful night of the week. It takes a good two hours to get all the components ready to go.
But I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed cooking a meal this much in a long time.
Everything just felt right. A great big bowl filled with fragrant herbs, ricotta, Parmesan, and sausage. The sound of tomato sauce gently bubbling on the stove. The feel of meatballs rolling in my hands.
This is the kind of meal you want to get the whole family involved in. Have the kids tear up the bread crumbs. Mom can stir the tomato sauce. Let cousin Ethel roll the meatballs.
You’ll want to linger over the pot, taking in long drags of the sweet smell of tomato and basil. You’ll want to take your time, tell stories, drink wine, drag the whole family into the kitchen.
When it’s finished, your house will smell like an Italian restaurant. If everyone wasn’t already in the kitchen, they will be by the time you’re done.
Just don’t expect too much conversation once the spaghetti and meatballs are served. Everyone will be far too busy spinning pasta onto their forks and marveling over the fluffy, herby, spiced meatballs. Frying the meatballs for just a few minutes on each side before simmering them in the sauce gives them that irresistible crunchy crust and soft, cheesy filling.
The homemade tomato sauce is thick, rich, and just a tad sweet. It smells like grandmas and Sunday afternoons and labors of love and it’s just the right texture for coating a spaghetti noodle. You can make it with fresh or canned tomatoes, which makes it the perfect recipe to use year-round.
This is what Neighborfood is all about–finding community at the kitchen table.
The theme for this week is Big Sunday Supper Meals that can be reinvented with leftovers for easy weeknight meals.
I can’t imagine a better recipe to bring people to the table than this classic spaghetti and meatballs. The recipe feeds a crowd and then some, so you’ll have leftovers to make quick meals throughout the week.
Use the leftover meatballs to make these incredible Meatballs Subs with Caramelized Gruyere and Onions. Or slice them up and toss them on a pizza. You could even use them for Italian Wedding Soup. Or, if your menu is full for the week, you can freeze the uncooked meatballs so you’ll have a backup when that complicated dinner you had planned just ain’t gonna cut it.
You can also reuse the extra sauce throughout the week. Stir it into this Easy Skillet Lasagna. Use it in this Italian Sausage, Zucchini, and Pepper Bruschetta, or whip up a simple party appetizer like this Three Cheese Lasagna Dip. Just like the meatballs, the sauce can be frozen and pulled out whenever you need to use it.
This meatball recipe makes about 10 LARGE meatballs–we’re talking 3-4 inches around!!–and about 30 small meatballs. Of course, you can change up the recipe based on your needs. Make them all large if you want (you can figure two large meatballs per person–they’re very filling!) or make them small and spread them out throughout the week. I like to do some big ones for a family gathering, then make the rest small to use in dishes throughout the week.
To freeze the meatballs, I like to shape them, place them on a baking sheet, then flash freeze for 1-2 hours until solid. From there, simply put all the meatballs in a freezer safe ziplock bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. I like to take them out of the freezer the night before I plan to cook use them then bake them in sauce in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through.
If you’d like to have plenty of leftover sauce for the week, I recommend doubling the recipe, but just remember, you’ll need a BIG pot! A Dutch Oven works great for that.
Now it’s your turn to share your own favorite family meals in the comments section below!
Now go. No seriously, stop reading this. Go now and round up your friends and family, make a big ol’ pot of food, and meet everyone at the table. You might be surprised what eating together can do.
For the Sauce:
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
- 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 28 oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the meatballs:
- 1 cup milk
- 4-5 slices bread, crusts removed
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian Sausage
- 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 3 eggs
- 3 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- About 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup olive, grape, or vegetable oil, for frying
For the pasta:
- 1 16 oz. box spaghetti noodles