Ladled over spaghetti, these classic meatballs with simple tomato sauce epitomize hearty comfort food. Serve a crowd with this generous recipe or hoard the leftovers for easy meal planning.
When I told my kids I’d prepared spaghetti and meatballs for dinner last week, they couldn’t contain their excitement. They actually cheered with sheer joy! For meatballs!
There’s nothing like a little cheering in the kitchen to make you feel like a supermom.
At dinnertime, my older daughter served herself second and third helpings. By the end of the meal, she’d scarfed down at least 10 meatballs.
She was so full that she passed up the chocolate mousse I’d prepared for dessert. That’s something.
Back when my kids first started asking for meatballs, I didn’t really want to make them.
I love meatballs, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that meatballs seem like a lot of work to prepare.
I’m a fan of quick and easy dinners. What can I say?
To be honest, too, I don’t really love handling raw meat, a somewhat critical step in the formation of meatballs.
Since my kids kept asking, I finally relented. After making meatballs a few times, I realized that it wasn’t as challenging as I’d thought.
I now even consider spaghetti and meatballs an easy weeknight dinner.
I love the shortcut of prepping the first few ingredients in a food processor. The garlic, Parmesan, parsley, and shallot come together as a pesto-like mixture in almost no time at all.
After transferring the mixture to a large bowl, stirring in the remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon keeps your hands out of the raw meat.
Once the mixture looks evenly combined, I use a small ice cream scoop as a first step in shaping the meatballs.
In addition to helping create meatballs with a consistent size, using the scoop also means that once the time to get your hands dirty finally arrives, it’s as simple as rolling the small blobs into even spheres. A little flour reduces the stickiness and helps the meatballs brown in a hot skillet.
After the meatballs begin to brown, sprinkling diced onions over them starts the process of creating an easy, flavorful sauce that cooks in the same pan.
As soon as the meatballs have browned evenly and the onions have softened, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, and a splash of wine nestle around the meatballs as everything simmer to perfection.
These meatballs and their rich sauce taste amazing over spaghetti. Top with Parmesan and freshly snipped basil leaves for the full and satisfying experience. Don’t forget the garlic bread, which tastes amazing dipped in the sauce.
This hearty, comforting recipe produces a generous amount of sauce and meatballs, which, unless you’re feeding a crowd, means lots of leftovers.
My kids like meatballs for breakfast the next morning, but I prefer to tuck them into ciabatta rolls as meatball sandwiches at lunchtime.
However you decide to enjoy your meatballs, you’ll love their surprising ease and spectacular taste. Three cheers for meatballs and this easy tomato sauce!
Classic Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese cut in chunks
- 1 large shallot halved
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 to 3/4 cups panko breadcrumbs
- unbleached all-purpose flour for shaping
- 3 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
- 1/4 cup red wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine garlic cloves, parsley, and Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Process until finely chopped. Add shallot and process until the mixture takes on a pesto-like appearance.
- Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Add egg, wine, and tomato paste, salt, and pepper and mix well to combine. Add meat and mix until the ingredients look evenly combined. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs. If the mixture feels too soft and wet to shape, add remaining breadcrumbs until you achieve a firmer consistency that will hold its shape as it cooks.
- Using a 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop, drop dollops of the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour and, with well floured hands, roll into meatballs.
- Heat olive oil in large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and brown on the bottom. Turn gently and sprinkle with onion, shaking the pan to help the onion settle around the meatballs. Cook, turning the meatballs frequently, until they are browned on all sides and the onions have softened.
- Add garlic and herbs to the skillet. Working carefully, add tomatoes and their juices, breaking them up with your fingers as you go. Pour in the wine and shake the pan to help the ingredients settle. Gently stir the mixture as best as you can without smashing the meatballs, which will be quite soft still. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Cook, partly covered, over low heat until the meatballs have cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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