Sunday Supper {spaghetti and meatballs}

A few years back, my oldest and best childhood friend moved to Atlanta. She had gone to college here so it was a temporary homecoming of sorts, but it was the first time since we were 18 years old that we lived in the same town. It was great if too short-lived. She up and left us when she met the man of her dreams and decided to take up residence in the Big Easy. I try not to get too bitter about that development, if only because New Orleans isn’t that far away and it’s nice to have friends to stay with when we visit. But it sure was fun when she was here.

She traveled quite a bit for work but fairly often she would be in town on Sunday evenings and we would host supper at our place. She’d bring the salad or the blueberry pie and we’d provide the main course and a bottle of wine (or two). It was a great way to wrap up the weekend or start the new week, depending on how you look at things, and it was nearly a given. If Katie was in town on Sunday, we were cooking and she’d be here. Occasionally I’ll send her a photo of what we’re eating to try to make her hungry enough to move back from Louisiana but I’ve heard you can get decent food down there so I’m losing that battle.

One of our go-tos in the winter was spaghetti and meatballs. It was one of those meals that you could prep some (if not all) in advance. It makes enough to feed 10 people and what’s more is it makes your house smell so good. It’s how a home should smell on a Sunday afternoon. There should be something simmering. And there should be friends and people you love.

We brought out spaghetti and meatball Sunday supper last night and although Katie wasn’t here, I thought of her when we sat down to a heap of noodles, sauce and meatballs on a cold and rainy evening in December. I use Ina Garten’s recipe but eliminate the veal and bulk up the sauce. I may be a hypocrite because I’ll eat adult cows but I have a hard time stomaching baby animals. If you’re thinking of feeding a crowd – or just stocking your freezer with meatballs to get you through a long winter – here’s what you’ll need:

For the meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef and pork (I use a 2:1 ratio beef to pork)
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (I de-crust a baguette and send it through the mini-prep)
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Olive oil for frying

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cans whole tomatoes, smooshed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

DSC_0376In a large bowl, combine the meat, both breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg and water.

DSC_0388Using a fork, mix everything until well-combined. I prefer a fork at this point because if you use your hands, you can tend to over-mix and heat up the mixture which will make things tough. Once everything is consistent, shape into balls (now it’s ok to use your hands) and place on a large sheet pan. I used a 1/8 cup measuring spoon to portion out my meatballs and it ended up making about 18.

DSC_0401Grab your largest lidded pot or Dutch oven and coat the bottom of the pan with about 1/4″ of olive oil. Heat over medium to medium-high heat. In batches, brown your meatballs.

DSC_0413Remove from oil and transfer to another sheet pan covered with paper towels to absorb some of that fatness.

DSC_0424Once you have browned all of your meatballs, drain the oil from the Dutch oven (leaving the meaty bits behind, please) and add a bit of fresh olive oil. Place back on the stove and saute the onions for about 7-8 minutes.

DSC_0430Add the garlic and saute for only a minute and then crank up the heat to high and use the red wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrape up the tasty meat-bits on the bottom while the wine is bubbling away. After about 3 minutes, and once the wine has nearly evaporated, add the tomatoes and parsley. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer and then nestle in the meatballs in the sauce. You’ll have to really snuggle them in there – it’s a tight fit.

DSC_0431Cover the pot and let simmer for an hour so the meatballs can cook through and flavor the sauce. For the last 30 – 45 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and simmer so the sauce can thicken up a bit. You’ll want to stir this occasionally (be gentle so you don’t end up with meat sauce rather than meatballs although they will break down a bit). You won’t need to cook these for more than two hours at the most. Add salt and pepper to taste.

DSC_0440It’s time to eat. Boil water for your spaghetti and get to eatin’.

DSC_0452If this won’t bring Katie back to Atlanta. Nothing will.