Thursday, January 9, 2014

Italian Meatballs in Simple Tomato Sauce

I have been down in Los Angeles cleaning out my Mom's condo and unable to cook. I have to say that I am now totally sick of eating out and the first thing I did when I got home was to go grocery shopping and the first thing that I cooked was Italian Meatballs. Italian food is one of my three ethnic comfort food categories - the first is Chinese and the second is Mexican, both of which I had lots of in LA. So, Italian was the kind of food I wanted. 

Now a lot of people like to make really giant meatballs, but I favor the smaller golf ball size.  And, I like to make a really simple Tomato Sauce to serve them in.  The sauce is based on Marcella Hazan's where she uses only canned Tomatoes (perfect for this time of year), butter and onions.  She leaves her onions whole and then removes them, but I like them minced.  I also like the texture of the onions in the sauce, but some of my friends prefer it when I puree it.  In either case, it is a great meatball recipe for serving over pasta or for making into Meatball Subs.  As you can see from the photo above, I made a lot - this recipe doubles and triples well for a party and because it also freezes very well.

Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

2 pounds ground beef
½ cup milk                       
½ cup torn up Italian white bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s Gluten Free White)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 tsps salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsps black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil

Serve with Simple Tomato Sauce

Simple Tomato Sauce:

4 Tbsps Butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small clove garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried basil (or several leaves of fresh if available)
½ - 1 Tablespoon Sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste         

Cook Tomato Sauce first and leave it to simmer while you make the meatballs. Heat butter in a large pot. Add the onions. Cook until onion is translucent.  Remove the cover, add the garlic, and increase the heat to medium high. Add the garlic and then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands or the spatula.  Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and let cook uncovered for up 30 minutes. PurĂ©e the mixture with a stick blender before adding to the meatballs, if you like a smoother texture. 

For meatballs:  Heat the milk until just about boiling in a small pot.  Take off the heat and put in the bread pieces.  Mash it and put it into a large bowl.  Add the beef, parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and garlic until just blended.  Wet your hands and form meatballs into the size of a golf ball.  Set on a baking sheet until ready to cook.
When all the meatballs are made, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Put in as many meatballs as you can fit without touching.  Brown the meatballs on two sides and remove to a plate.  Add in the next batch of meatballs. 
When all the meatballs are browned, put them careful into the sauce and spoon sauce on top of them.  Heat the meatballs on a low simmer for 15 minutes.  When the meatballs are all browned, add them carefully to the sauce and heat for an additional 15 minutes. Serve the meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta or make into meatball subs with provolone cheese. 
Five Element Analysis
Beef belongs to the Earth Element so that element is well represented.  The tomatoes bring in plenty of the Fire Element. The Parmesan Cheese, parsley, oregano and basil, onions and garlic make sure that the Metal Element is present as well. The eggs contribute the Water Element and the bread in the meatball and the pasta or rolls if made of wheat bring in the Wood Element.  That makes Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce a balanced dish and anything else you serve is extra!

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