Meatballs & Marinara

Aside from the fact that my brother and I were first-generation kids in our family, we lived a pretty “American” life. We had went to school; we made a good number of friends from school; we hung out with those friends; we also had neighborhood friends; we frequently hung out with those friends; we participated in those candy fundraisers, which required us going door to door; we did extracurricular activities (him karate and basketball, and me ballet, tap and gymnastics); and we ate what American kids ate—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese and, of course, spaghetti and meatballs.

Yeah, you could say that spaghetti and meatballs is technically Italian, but the spaghetti and meatballs we ate came out of a can—a Chef Boyardee can. And back in that day, that was equivalent to a prime rib!

I remember having dozens of cans in the pantry… it was a glorious era. Fast forward to present day, I no longer eat canned spaghetti and meatballs. (Thank God.) Now, I make my own meatball mix and roll them into huge balls of meaty delight, and I even make my own marinara. And not to toot my own horn, but Dan’s step mom, who just happens to be Italian, says they taste just like her Grandma’s. And if that’s not a compliment, well then… I really don’t care what you think 🙂

These meatballs and sauce can be mopped with a crisp and buttery piece of garlic bread, or you can also mop these up with an unnecessarily large amount of pasta—your choice. No carb is a bad carb.

OH, and if you’re a lazy bum (it’s okay), you can use jarred marinara if you’d like! But I will always say… go with the homemade marinara. It takes like an hour.

Note: I like to make this the night before, because the flavors have time to come together. ALSO, I’d wear a big apron or something you don’t mind getting dirty, because it’s a messy one!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: At least 1 1/2 hours Serves: 8

What You’ll Need

For the marinara sauce

  • 2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

For the meatballs

  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground veal
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c parley, finely minced
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • Marinara that you prepared beforehand

For the garnish

  • Parsley
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

How You’ll Do It

  1. In a medium pot on medium, heat up the olive oil. Then add the garlic and onion, and cook until softened and golden.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and stir the pot until everything is evenly combined.
  3. When the marinara starts to bubble (be careful of that tomato splatter!), add the oregano and rosemary. Put a lid on the pot, and lower the heat to low. You’re going to let this simmer away for about 45 minutes.
  4. After 45 minutes, the sauce should be nice and thick. I like to take an emulsifier at this point and process the marinara until smooth and real creamy. If you don’t have an emulsifier, then you can also use a food processor when the marinara has been fully cooled to room temperature.
  5. Let the marinara cool while you work on your meatballs.
  6. You’re going to toss most of your ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl—all three meats, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
  7. Make sure your hands are clean, because you are about to go IN. This is one of my favorite parts; I find it 1,000% therapeutic and soothing. Get in there, and mix the meatball mixture until everything comes together. You really want to put your back into this to make sure all the ingredients are getting incorporated evenly. I like to do a kneading technique—scoop from the bottom and push at top—on all sides. I usually do this for 5 to 7 minutes, really giving my meat baby a full body massage.
  8. Once you think you’ve done a good job massaging your meat baby, it’s time to roll them into balls. I like to make mine about 1 1/2 inches. You can take out a cookie scoop if you want, but I think that creates unnecessary dishes. Once the meatball is rolled, I like to lay these out on cookie sheets. This recipe makes about 2 dozen meatballs… it depends how big you make them.
  9. Once all of your meatballs have been rolled out. Just let them rest for 10 minutes. They’ve been through a lot so far.
  10. After 10 minutes, heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium with the olive oil. It’s time to brown the babies. There are a lot of meatballs, so you’ll want to do these in batches, about 3 to 4 batches. The meatballs should cook about 3 minutes a side. Once they’re cooked, put them to a side to rest. If you need extra oil during the process, add a tbsp at a time—girl, don’t be shy!
  11. Here’s something fun to do: Pour all that sauce you made earlier into the pot that you cooked your meatballs in. Try not to splatter yourself with all that tomato sauce!
  12. Once all the marinara has been added, use a wooden spoon to scrap all that brown meat magic at the bottom of the pot—it’s flavor town down there!
  13. Slowly, and one by one, add all the meatballs back into the pot with the marinara. Make sure they’re all covered with love. Then add the Parmesan rind.
  14. Once the meatballs and marinara starts to bubble, lower the heat to low. You’ll want to simmer this for at least an hour. Once it’s done, you can serve if you’re in a pinch, but I recommend skipping this and going to the next step.
  15. Let the meatballs and marinara come to room temperature, then place a lid on the pot and put it in the fridge to rest for 24 hours. The flavors will meld together overnight, and the it will be even better the next day.
  16. When you’re ready to serve, put the pot on the stove, and put the heat on medium. It’ll take 30 minutes or more to heat up depending how strong your flame is. It’s long, but trust me, it’s worth it… #trusttheprocess. (You can hit me now.)
  17. At this point, the meatballs and marinara should be nice and bubbly! You’re ready to serve these meat babies up. I like to garnish with a helluva lot of Parmesan cheese—I’m talking a small mound—a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
  18. Bon Appetit!

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