Spaghetti and meatballs has always been a reliable favorite at our dinner table. We’ve always made our own meatballs from scratch. I can’t count the number of meatballs I’ve rolled in my life, and each batch is always a little bit different than the last. I don’t have a favorite recipe that I follow religiously. Nor do I have favorite brands of pasta sauce or select ingredients. It all depends on the mood that I’m in, the time that I have, and the ingredients on hand.
Having FRESH ingredients makes all the difference when it comes to GREAT spaghetti and meatballs. It doesn’t matter if you are making meatballs and sauce from scratch or just “hooking up” your basic canned sauce, adding vegetables will make a HUGE difference.
A do have a few favorite ingredients that I like to add to my meatballs. Feta and basil are always a good pairing, I usually put both of these in with diced red onions. Lately I’ve been grinding croutons instead of bread crumbs. I like the variety of flavors available.
The one staple ingredient in all my meatball recipes is an egg. It helps the meatballs to keep their shape without drying them out by adding too many bread crumbs.
Tonight our meatballs took center stage. I didn’t really have time or ingredients on hand to make sauce from scratch, so I just added a few select ingredients to make it a bit tastier.
For the meatballs:
1lb. Fresh 90% lean hamburger
1 medium onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1tbls cut fresh basil
1 cup chopped croutons
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1tbls olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Don’t be afraid to dig in and get your hands dirty. I like to really “squeeze” the ingredients together so they pack easily into meatballs. Sometimes I like to roll the formed balls in additional crouton crumbs, this isn’t a necessary step, but adds extra crispy flavor to the edges.
I cook my meatballs on an electric skillet. We have this ancient Daisy “roundabout” that works like a charm. I use only extra virgin olive oil on the pan and keep the temperature at about 250 degrees.
For the sauce I sliced green peppers and onions. Always sample your tomato sauce prior to using it. Depending on the sauce you may need to sweeten it if it is too acidic*. Red peppers and carrots will add sweetness, as well as a teaspoon of grape jelly.
Our sauce* tonight wasn’t very acidic so I left out the sweetners and added about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese. This went into the pan on top of the sauteed peppers and onions before I added the sauce. I like to melt the feta completely so it doesn’t leave salty chunks. For anyone who hasn’t tried melting feta, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. All of the salty sharp properties that are present in the cheese when it is served cold dissapear and it becomes a sweet smooth cheese of a completely different flavor.
When the feta is melted, I add the sauce straight out of the jar. Depending on how thick the sauce you are using is, you may want to fill the jar up to 1/2 way with warm water and shake before adding to pan. This not only helps thin the sauce, but cleans the jar out and doesn’t leave any waste.
Tonight we used angel hair pasta. I like to pair this with spaghetti and meatballs so the pasta doesn’t overpower the flavors of the meat.
I can’t stress enough that the one true “secret ingredient” to any dish is passion. If you really enjoy the cooking process itself the end result will more than likely be a good one. Teach yourself to “color outside the lines”. Be creative! Chances are you’ll discover something wonderful! Some of my favorite dishes have come from me just tossing random ingredients into a saucepan.
*If you happen to choose a pasta sauce that is too sweet, you can add fresh diced tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or a very small amount of lemon juice.
*We used Tuttorosso Traditional Pasta Sauce