Okay, check it out..You have three options for cooking the meatballs. The main recipe calls for baking them, but you can also sauté the meatballs in a little oil before you finish cooking them in the sauce, or you can also cook them right in the sauce. Baking and simmering the meatballs is easier and frees you up for other pursuits, like mah-jongg. Or laundry. Or Irish folk dancing. Seriously, has any mom ever been able to identify extra time?
A classic meat combo for meatballs (and traditional meat loaf, for that matter) is about one third each of veal, beef, and pork. You can often find this in the meat area of the supermarket labeled "meat loaf mixture," and if so, your work is done. If not, you can ask the butcher (who may well sell this mixture already), or buy the three meats and mix them together in any proportion you like (do not make yourself in any way crazy about the one third, one third, one third thing), or buy two meats, or even just one. You can also use ground turkey; see the variation for more info.
- 1 slice(s) plain bread
- 1/4 cup(s) milk
- 1 1/4 pound(s) ground meat, preferably a combination of beef, pork, and veal
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup(s) finely freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
- 2 tablespoon(s) finely minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) kosher or coarse salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper
- Nonstick cooking spray, if you are baking the meatballs
- 4 cup(s) sauce from Good Old Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce, or store-bought tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil, if you are sautéing the meatballs
- 1 package(s) (16-ounce) dried pasta, anything from spaghetti to ziti to rigatoni
- Tear the bread into pieces and place them in a small bowl. Pour the milk over the bread, stir to combine, and let sit until the bread has absorbed most of the milk, about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess milk and shred the bread into little pieces.
- Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the soaked bread, egg, Parmesan, parsley, if using, garlic, salt, and pepper. Using your hands, blend the meat mixture well but try not to squeeze it too much. Form the meat mixture into nice round meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
- Arrange the meatballs on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. Bake the meatballs until almost cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the tomato sauce to a simmer in a medium-size pot over medium-low heat. Add the partially cooked meatballs to the sauce and let them simmer until fully cooked, about 10 minutes.
- While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and let the water return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and serve it with the sauce and meatballs. Serve extra Parmesan on the side to sprinkle over the meatballs, if you like.
Other Meatballs: You can use all beef, all pork, or all veal, or any combo of the three. You can also use turkey (in this case the mixture will be a bit softer and so a little trickier to handle and keep in perfectly round balls). You can even use a mixture of turkey and one of the other meats, if you just want to lighten the meatballs up a bit.
Other Cooking Methods: To sauté the meatballs: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the meatballs and brown them on all sides, about 5 minutes in total. Remove the browned meatballs. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the rest of the meatballs. Set the meatballs aside and pour off all but 2 teaspoons of fat. Heat the tomato sauce in the skillet over medium heat (if you are making the tomato sauce from scratch, you can do this right in this skillet). Scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate all of the nice little crusty bits into the sauce. When the sauce is simmering, slide the browned meatballs into the skillet and gently stir so they are all coated with the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the meatballs, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
To cook the meatballs right in the sauce: Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer in a medium-size pot over medium-low heat. Add the raw meatballs to the sauce, increase the heat to medium, partially cover the pot, and let simmer, without stirring, for about 5 minutes. Very carefully shake the pot to prevent breaking up the meatballs and let them cook in the sauce, partially covered and stirring gently and occasionally so that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, until the meatballs are fully cooked, about 25 minutes in all. If some of the fat from the meat rises to the top of the sauce, you can spoon it off if you like.
Probably my longest post for this blog...
Do have a nice glass of red wine with this dish-