This is a simple spaghetti sauce and easy to make, but what makes this a standout is “Dad’s Meatballs”! Nothing reminds me of my dad then the smell of this delicious sauce cooking on the stove. These meatballs are so flavorful that it will be your favorite meatball recipe like it is mine!
- 3 -28 oz. cans of San Marzano* whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 cup tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 15 fresh basil leaves, julienned
- salt & pepper to taste (I use 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper)
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- pasta of your choice, cooked according to box directions (Always boil your water first, then add salt)
- 2 lbs. lean ground chuck
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
- salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp. each)
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano** cheese, graded
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- olive oil for frying
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
Start with the sauce: Add the cans of peeled tomatoes to your food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Add the olive oil to a large pot over low heat and sauté the onions for a few minutes, add the green pepper and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more.
Pour the puréed tomatoes into the pot. Add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Heat on medium to medium low for a minimum of 1 hour. (You’ll be adding the meatballs as soon as they are fried, so start that process immediately after sauce is simmering). Simmering a little longer helps concentrate the rich tomato flavors.
While the sauce is simmering, place meat in a large bowl. Add garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, cheese and eggs. Work mixture until well blended. Add the milk and continue to mix (if too moist, add a little more bread crumbs). Shape into about 20 to 24 meatballs (depending on the size you want). Brown lightly in olive oil on every side. Drain on paper towels. Add to the sauce the last 30 min. of cooking (can cook a little longer if desired).
At the end of the cooking process, add julienned fresh basil and taste to see if it needs any more salt & pepper.
Cook your favorite spaghetti according to directions on the box, drain (Reserve about one cup of pasta water). When spaghetti is done (al dente), put back into the pot and add several ladles of sauce into the spaghetti, a little of the pasta water, and toss with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese***. Serve the meatballs and added sauce on top of the flavored spaghetti. Sprinkle with more Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Optional: garnish with a little chopped basil.
*(San Marzano tomatoes are the most famous plum tomato to come out of Italy. They are grown in the rich volcanic soil of the base of Mount Vesuvius which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count!)
**(Parmigiano-Reggiano can only come from for a specific region of Italy and is protected by Parmigiano-Reggiano Consorzio and is stamped, regular Parmesan cheese is not protected and could be a copycat or counterfeit.)
***(Right before you’re ready to drain your pasta, always be sure to reserve a cup of the starchy water it cooked in. Add this when you toss your drained pasta with sauce – it will be the binding that “marries” the sauce to the pasta. Another way to flavor your pasta is to finish it in its sauce.)
Tip: MAKE AHEAD: You can make the meatballs the day before. After you fry them, place them on a sheet and wrap with plastic and refrigerate until the next day. Let them sit on the counter about one hour to come to room temperature then add them to the sauce!