Throughout each of my three and a half novels, food is a running motif. In Some Rise by Sin, most – if not all – important discoveries and decisions are made while sitting around the 16th-century version of the dinner table. In A Holiday Wish, although she’s not great at it Noelle loves to cook, while Everett could easily slay the competition as a contestant on The Next Food Network Star. And in A Holiday Gift, due out in 2019, both the main character, her romantic interest, and antagonists are all bakers vying for the prize for best confection.
There wasn’t any grand plan to make this happen – I just honestly love food. Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, and sharing recipes. And you may have noticed that I post to this blog each Wednesday, and each week I post in different category. Because most months have four weeks, I’ve only come up with four different categories. But August has five, and when I found myself at a loss for what to post on that fifth Wednesday, it came to me. I could share a recipe.
So what follows is the first real recipe my mom ever taught me to make – spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Disclaimer: we are not Italian. If you’re offended by spaghetti sauce recipes that don’t start with a basket of vine-ripened tomatoes, you should probably stop reading now. Second disclaimer: We boil our meatballs. This might sound strange, but I promise – it’s worth it. Not only does it eliminate some of the fat, if you’re worried about such things, but it also results in a meatball that, since it’s not pan-fried, doesn’t mismatch a crunchy exterior with a mushy middle. So if you don’t mind learning how to make an Italian staple from an Irish girl, read on. My mom learned this method from her cousin, who learned it from a caterer she once worked for. It’s the recipe our family has used for decades, and always gets rave reviews – even from Italians. You can easily double or even triple the meatball recipe without having to make extra sauce. They’re also great in the slow cooker, if you want to put them out at parties, and freeze extremely well. Pair with spaghetti, serve them as appetizers, eat them cold on a roll in a sandwich (or even right out of the fridge – not that I’ve ever done that).
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 2 28-oz cans unsalted tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes, if you like a chunkier sauce, or tomato puree, if you like it thick)
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 generous pinch sugar
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 lb ground beef (or turkey, chicken, or any other ground meat mixture)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (may need more if using turkey or chicken)
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.
- Add tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined with the garlic and oil. Allow to toast, stirring frequently, 3-4 minutes.
- Add both cans of tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, and salt. (I realize adding sugar to spaghetti sauce is controversial. I’ve tried it both ways and honestly prefer it with sugar. It doesn’t make it sweet, it just cuts down on the acidity. You can leave it out if you want.)
- Stir to combine well and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to simmer while you prepare the meatballs.
- Fill a separate saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix, using your hands, until well combined. If using a “wetter” meat, add more breadcrumbs in tablespoon increments until it comes together. It should still be a bit sticky, but not terribly so.
- Form into 20 balls, about 1 oz. each.
- Drop meatballs into boiling water, in batches of 5. Cook until the meatballs rise to the top, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drop into the hot sauce.
- Once all meatballs are in the sauce, reduce heat to low and cover tightly. Cook for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. You can also transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours.
- If freezing, allow to cool completely before transferring to a storage container and putting in the freezer.
If you try these, let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!