Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Italian Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

Something very interesting has happened since I changed the focus of my blog from one of trying to keep up with food trends, trying to figure out what super "successful" food bloggers (however you quantify that--I was going by the number of Pins, Followers and FB Likes they had) were doing that I wasn't, trying to take gorgeous pictures that got accepted onto sites like FoodGawker and TasteSpotting, trying to post several times a week, and trying to get my cookbook written, to one of enjoying my blog, posting when I can, and putting my cookbook to bed (you can read about the changes I've made to my blog HERE). My stress level (related to the blog--lol!) took a huge dive and I've had a crazy run of FB Likes in the last week and a half! I can't explain it except to say that the universe is a funny, funny place ;)

As I saw each of the more than 30 new FB Likes come across my notifications in the last two weeks, I figured I'd better get on it and post something new, since it's been almost two months since my last post (it's hard to believe it's been that long--doesn't life get so crazy??). So I present these Italian Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce for your viewing and tasting pleasure :) I've made these meatballs a gazillion times, but the sauce was born out of desperation on a night recently when I went to the pantry to grab a jar of my favorite store sauce (Classico Tomato Basil) and I was out.

Me: "Well, how hard can it be to make some sauce?" Yeah, totally not hard. This sauce is simple, flavorful, and if you do any cooking on a regular basis you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen. I will add that you can use the sauce as-is, or you can simmer the cooked meatballs in it for 10-20 minutes to give it a deeper, more complex (read "delicious") flavor.

We have eaten the meatballs and sauce just by themselves, on top of sauteed veggies, or over spaghetti squash (per my sweet husband's diet changes in the last year or so for his diabetes), and you can definitely eat them with pasta.

Notes: **I have found that for meatballs I like the Kraft Parmesan "shakey" cheese in the green canister; I save my fresh Parmesan for topping and salads and stuff. You can use fresh shredded if you want--if you do, increase the amount of cheese from 1/4 cup to 1/3-1/2 cup. **My dried Italian herb mixture has basil, oregano, sage, marjoram in it.

Italian Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce
printable recipe

for the meatballs:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup pizza sauce (I love this recipe)
1/4 cup Kraft Parmesan cheese (see note above)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

for the tomato sauce:
2 teaspoons olive or avocado oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 28-oz cans diced or petite-diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian herb mixture
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Fresh shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Heat your oven to 400deg. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it lightly with non-stick spray.

2.Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (I use my hands, and I wear latex gloves). Use a cookie scoop to portion out the mixture and roll into meatballs.

3. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. While the meatballs are in the oven, prepare the sauce:

4. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until it's softened and starting to brown a bit, 5-8 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes (scraping up any browned stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot), vinegar, herbs, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Bring it all to a high simmer, cover and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

5. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture to the consistency you want--I like an almost-smooth sauce. OR transfer the mixture to a blender in two batches and blend it to the consistency you want. **PLEASE be super careful if you use a blender--let the mixture cool a few minutes, remove the stopper in the top of the blender lid, and hold a folded towel over the hole before blending.

6. You can use the sauce now, or to give it a nice rich flavor, return the sauce to the pot (if necessary), add in the cooked meatballs and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Serve with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 24 meatballs with sauce.

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