Spaghetti and meatballs has been one of my favorite meals for as long as I can remember. Good meatballs are the quintessential Italian comfort food, and when they’re made with lots of care and love, you can taste it. My dad’s never been one for red sauce, so this was always a meal we’d have when he was off on business trips. It was a special dinner for me and my sister and mom and was always a favorite at large family gatherings.
What really takes this meal over the top is the sauce. Good tomato sauce starts with good tomatoes. Trust me and spend the few extra pennies on San Marzano tomatoes – they make the best tomato sauce in the world. The second best ingredient is time, so I start my sauces early in the day and check in on them every so often. The longer it simmers the better it tastes, and the better your house starts to smell. If you can’t be home to wait for the sauce, you can set it in a slow cooker on low for up to 8 hours.
Pasta & Meatballs
For the Sauce:
- 1 tbsp EVOO
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 head garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
- 15 oz canned tomato sauce
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 pound dried pasta, cooked to al dente
For the Meatballs:
- 1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp red pepper flake
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground veal
- EVOO, for drizzling
In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until it just starts to smoke. Toss in the diced onion with plenty of salt and pepper and cook 7-10 minutes, until the onion is soft. Add in the tomato paste and garlic and stir until everything is well mixed and fragrant, about 2 more minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the plan. Add the San Marzano tomatoes and break them up a bit using a wooden spoon. Add the tomato sauce and spices – minus the fresh basil – and bring the sauce up to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer over low heat for at least two hours and up to four hours, occasionally stirring.
About 40 minutes before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with foil and start boiling a large pot of salty water for the pasta.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs, minus the oil. When the meatballs are well mixed, roll into 1 1/2″ balls and place on the cookie sheets. Drizzle them with the oil and place in the oven for 20 minutes. You should have about 30 meatballs using these proportions.
When the pasta is done, ladle in some sauce to keep it from getting sticky. Once the meatballs come out of the oven, place them in the pot with the sauce, stir in the fresh basil leaves, and serve. Mangia!