Sunday Dinner

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Roasted Garlic and Parmesan
Simple Salad with a Caesar Vinaigrette

Ricotta Cake with Chocolate Caramel Sauce

These meatballs are the meal component that you can enjoy multiple times.  How is that?  Well, the best way to make a flavorful red sauce is to commit to getting it done at least one day before eating it for dinner.  I like to take it a step further and make the sauce on Friday and then commence with making, shaping and cooking of the meatballs (don't forget to let the kids in on the fun) on Saturday before we enjoy it for a Sunday dinner. Making ahead and in stages may seem like a lot of work, but it gives the whole pot  that "next day better" goodness.  Having the dish made beforehand also frees up some of my time on Sundays, allowing me make a cake and a fresh loaf of bread and cheer on my daughter's basketball team.

I like to keep my sauce simple with good San Marzano tomatoes and the culinary holy trinity of onions, carrots and celery.  Garlic and bay leaves help balance the acid and sweetness. For the meatballs, I boost the flavor of a rather plain ground beef recipe by adding Italian sausage, Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a bit more garlic.  A little red wine and tomato paste help to deepen the meaty flavor. The smell of them frying in olive oil (and the taste testing) are phase one of the enjoyment process.  Place them in the red sauce where they will get to know the other flavors overnight.  A dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with some bread and red wine is the central phase of enjoyment.  When dinner is over, fish around in the remaining sauce for the remaining meatballs and put away for further use.  Meatball sandwiches make for great lunches or even another dinner later in the week.

Sunday Dinner one year ago

Spaghetti and Meatballs
makes about 4 quarts of sauce and 4 dozen meatballs

For the Marinara
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 medium stalks celery, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes
2 (32-ounce) cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Meatballs
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casing
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese, cut into small chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 slice of white bread
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1 extra large egg
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging
Extra virgin olive oil for cooking

Spaghettini or pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions

For the Marinara
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions with a pinch of kosher salt and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and sauté for another 8-10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes and bay leaves.  Partially cover over and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and completely cooked through, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Allow the sauce to cool slightly.  Using a hand held immersion blender or a food processor, blend the sauce until smooth.  Allow to cool completely, cover and refrigerate overnight.  The next day, remove the lid and bring the sauce to a slow simmer while you prepare the meatballs. 

For the Meatballs
In the bowl of a food processor with the machine running, drop through the feed tube the garlic, cheese, and parsley.  Process until the cheese is finely grated.  Add the slice of bread and process until fine crumbs.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and blend well with the beef, sausage, bread crumbs, egg, tomato paste, red wine, salt and black pepper.  Shape the mixture into 2-inch balls (I use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop), about 48 meatballs.  Dredge the meatballs in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add about 1/4 of the meatballs and cook until the meatballs are browned on all sides, but not cooked through.  Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and continue with the remaining meatballs adding extra oil as needed.  Cook the meatballs in the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced, darkened in color, and thickened, about 3-4 hours.  Allow the sauce to cool completely, cover and refrigerate overnight.  

Uncover the pan and bring the sauce to a low simmer or until heated through.  Serve over your favorite pasta.  Enjoy!

Source: Sauce from The Galley Gourmet, Meatballs adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997


  1. I love the addition of Italian sausage in these meatballs

  2. I love pasta a lot, but this meat balls make it look more delicious. So excited to try this at home. Thanks for the share!

  3. Nicole - How do you keep your pasta from sticking together after you drain it? Your presentation looks so pretty above. I tend to add a little of the sauce to the noodles to keep them from sticking, but I would much prefer to serve the noodles plain so I can see the beautiful contrast with the sauce spooned on top. Tip?

    1. I serve the pasta immediately, so I don't do anything. But you could toss it with a bit of olive oil. Some people rinse the pasta under water, but that rinses away the starch and keeps the sauce from clinging to the pasta.

  4. Oh, that would help... just plate it up immediately. It does seem to be fine initially, but if it sits in the pot for a couple of minutes after it's drained, it starts to stick (I too don't want to rinse or use oil b/c of the reason you mentioned). Thanks for sharing your tip. I appreciate it!


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