Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Recipe Review- Basic Tomato Sauce & Meatballs over Spaghetti- Traditional Italian Comfort Food

A lot of times I do food projects on Sundays. Usually if I'm going to attempt something new or fancy I like to give myself a good amount of of time. Except this Sunday I didn't have the cooking bug. It was rainy and cold out. I was sore from a long run the day before, and totally had that curl up with a blanket with hot chocolate vibe- not my normal "I'm gonna cook! I'm so excited!" enthusiasm. I did want to cook something... just not something labor intensive. Apparently when I read the recipe for homemade tomato sauce and it included blanching, peeling, seeding and chopping 4 lbs of tomatoes, my brain didn't think that was labor intensive. Instead I had visions of sauce simming on the stove for hours, my house smelling like Italian spices food, me leisurely stirring the sauce every once in a while, sprinkling in a little extra basil here, some oregano there.

I found a very basic recipe for tomato sauce It only had 5 major ingredients- which was deceptive considering the amount of prep that goes into those 5 simple ingredients. I'm a big fan of smittenkitchen, but this recipe was not a homerun for me. I had to do a lot of doctoring with herbs and spices. All the tomato prep was rather exhausting. This was my first venture into homemade tomato sauces, I wanted to do it right, but I think next time I'll be using canned tomatoes. Meatballs however were incredibly easy. I love one bowl prep.

Simple Tomato Sauce
adapted from
yield: 4-5 cups of sauce

4 lbs of fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion- diced
3 cloves of garlic
fresh basil
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons capers
ground red pepper
fresh ground salt & pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil. On the side prepare a large bowl with ice water in it. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds until skins start to peel back, then transfer to ice bath. Peel the tomatoes with a knife and discard the skins. Or don't do any of this and just buy some canned tomatoes. Halve peeled tomatoes and remove the seeds, coarsely chop the tomatoes. Chop onion and garlic.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic for about 10 minutes, until the onions start to become opaque. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium low. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Adjust spices. Leave sauce chunky, or use and immersion blender for smoother texture.

Mom's Meatballs
yield: 14 - 16 meatballs

1lb ground beef
2 Tablespoons diced onion
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients and kneed by hand until combined. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Heat olive oil in a pan and brown the outsides of the meatballs, then transfer into simmering tomato sauce. Cook for 20 minutes. Serve with sauce over your favorite pasta.

I have to say, this turned out to be a whole lot of work, and prepping all the tomatoes made a disaster of my kitchen. I think I've gotten any desire to make sauce like this again out of my system and I'll be fine using canned tomatoes from now. The end result was good- but was it amazing blow your socks of? No, and when I work that hard at making something I want it to be great! Mom's meatballs however were excellent. My mom used to bake them in the oven, but I like to boil them in the sauce, that way they soak in some of the sauce's flavors and stay really moist.

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