08 January 2011

Fail-Proof Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

There's something really comforting about a plate (or bowl) of spaghetti and meatballs.

photo by: the Hubs

Growing up we never ate spaghetti and meatballs.  My mom can't stand doesn't care for meatballs so she always just browned some ground beef and stirred it into the sauce to serve over spaghetti.  I didn't know any different so it was fine with me...until I tasted my first really good beef meatball.  There was no going back. 

Over the years I have tried many different meatball recipes with varying degrees of success.  Some were dry and bland, some were gritty from dried bread crumbs and others just fell apart.  I refused to give up until I found that perfect recipe.  I eventually did ... kind of.  I actually found two recipes that were both pretty good and then combined the two into one that worked for me. 

This recipe is so versatile!  With the added liquid it makes a really great sauce to serve over pasta.  Without the added liquid the sauce is a bit thicker and is perfect for meatball subs. 

Fail-Proof Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated Nov/Dec 2010 and All Recipes.com)


1 pound lean ground beef (could do 1/2 lb gr beef and 1/2 lb gr veal)
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (about 3 ½ slices of white bread, no crusts)
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves pressed garlic
1 egg, beaten

4 T olive oil (to cover the bottom of the dutch oven)
3/4 cup chopped onion or shallot
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
2 (28 oz) cannned tomatoes – 1 can diced, 1 can crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon dried basil (or Italian seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 c liquid (broth or stock) to thin, if necessary


1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, milk, parsley, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic and beaten egg. Mix well and form into 12 balls.

2. Bake at 450F for 20 minutes.  After removing the meatballs from the oven, reduce the temperature to 300F.

2. In dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion and red pepper in oil, until onion is translucent. Add in garlic and cook 1 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook about 30 more seconds.

3. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes, liquid (if using as a sauce), salt, sugar and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Add the partially cooked meatballs to sauce, cover and cook in oven for about 60 minutes, or until meatballs are firm and sauce has thickened.

4. If a smoother sauce is desired, at the end of the hour of simmering, pull out the meatballs and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.

* A splash of half and half or cream stirred in at the end makes the sauce even richer!



MamaNoFun said...

Sounds great, Ella! As a child, I never had meatballs unless I could talk my grandmother into Franco American Spaghetti w/ Meatballs.... in.the.can. Ugh. Kids, what do they know?

E said...

I used to LOVE "Spaghettios" as a kid. Those and Chef Boyardee's ravioli from a can. What was I thinking?!?!? :)

anna cochran said...

I will take a large to-go box with a salad and garlic bread or bread sticks. i would also like a 1/2 gallon og ice cream. $45

E said...

:) Maybe this could be one of the meals! And yes, I would definitely throw in homemade icecream.