Classic Dish – Spaghetti & Meatballs in a Roasted Tomato Sauce

My eldest son is what I like to call a “con-vegetarian”, the prefix indicating either convenience or an attempt to snow his mother, depending on how charitable I am feeling that day. To understand this phenomenon, one only needs to bear witness to the following conversation:

Son: What’s for dinner?
Me: A delicious  pork chop/chicken breast/steak/lamb chop.
Son: But I don’t like meat…I am a vegetarian (note the proud undertones here).
Me: Silly me, I made a mistake…we’re having lasagna/burritos/hamburgers/stir-fry/anything with sausage for dinner.
Son: Fantastic! I’m starving.

The following recipe falls into his list of “exceptions” .

Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs in a Roasted Tomato Sauce

The truth of the matter is that there are many shortcuts you can take here. An obvious one is to turn to purchased tomato sauce. If you are going to go the whole way, start your tomatoes in the afternoon, and sort of putter away at the rest.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 2 lb fresh tomatoes, I use a mixture of romas and cherry
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped oregano (1/2 tsp. if using dried)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil (1/2 tsp. if using dried)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • very healthy glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 375 ml can of prepared tomato sauce (the no salt-added kinds are easy to find now)
  • 1/2 c. water

1) Preheat your oven to 325 F

2) Chop up your tomatoes coarsely. Add to a large, oven-proof dish that will allow your tomatoes to sit in a fairly shallow layer.

3) Sprinkle the garlic,oregano, basil, sugar and salt over your tomatoes and give them a stir. Drizzle olive oil over the entire dish and get it into the oven.

4) Roast for about 2 hours…give them a peek after an hour to make sure you aren’t getting any burned edges…if so, give them a good stir. When done, these tomatoes have the richest, most lovely flavour. I refer to them as vegetable candy.

5) When your roasted tomatoes are done, remove them from the oven and allow them to sit for a few minutes.

6) Find yourself a heavy bottom pot (large enough to hold all of your sauce and meatballs). Heat up a glug of olive oil on medium heat. To this, add the garlic and onions and allow to saute until the garlic is golden and the onions begin to soften.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

7) Add the roasted tomatoes to your onion and garlic and give them a good stir to loosen up any of the really roasted bits.

8 ) Add the t omato sauce and water and turn down heat to a simmer. It’s a good idea to dip into this for a taste right now and make any adjustment to the seasoning that you may want.

9) Simmer away for an hour or so (lid on), giving it a stir every once and a while. If you find that the sauce is becoming too concentrated, turn your heat down a bit and add another 1/2 c. of water. Be sure to taste to make sure you are still good with the flavour. If you find the sauce is too diluted, you can add a Tbsp of tomato paste…again, be sure to taste afterward.

Meatballs

Quick note: I have been known to be smart about this and double the recipe. I then freeze half of the meatballs (at step #6) for use at a later date.

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (have I mentioned I love garlic)
  • 1 c. fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/8 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

1) In a large bowl, add the milk to the breadcrumbs. Allow the breadcrumbs to soak up the milk.

2) In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and parsley (if using). Then whisk in the cheese.

3) Add the egg mixture to the breadcrumbs and give it a good stir.

4) Add the ground meat to this bowl. Give your hands a good wash and mix the whole mess together…you can use a spoon to do this but truly, nothing beats your hands for this job (I can see my sister cringing right now). The trick to juicy meatballs is to find the fine balance between mixed well and over-mixed.

5) Cover a tray with a piece of foil and give it a light spray with some non-stick or use some olive oil.

6) Form your meatballs….my kids like the big ones but any size will do. Place them on the tray and then stick the tray in the fridge for 20 minutes or so. TIP: If you are going to fry your meatballs, smaller ones may be preferable.

7) Increase the temperature of your oven to 350F. It’s OK if your tomatoes are still in there. Bake for approximately 15 minutes…perhaps a bit less if you opted for the smaller meatballs.

Now, here’s where you have a decision to make. Most recipes advocate frying your meatballs in some type of oil (olive, I hope) before finishing them off in the oven. Out of curiosity and a mandate to eliminate as much “frying” as possible, I skipped the oil and popped them straight into the oven. I was pleased with the overall result…the final product did seem slightly less “rich” but it seemed like a good trade to me. So, if you are going to fry…step 8 is for you. If not, proceed directly to 9.

8 ) Heat up some olive oil in a pan so that it comes about half way up the meatball. I would not use anything hotter than medium-high heat. Pop your meatballs in (you will probably need to do batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the pan). Give them a few minutes on each side, until they start to brown nicely. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil. I would recommend sitting them on a piece of paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

9) Get your meatballs on your foil covered baking tray and pop them in the oven for about fifteen minutes. When they are done, pop them into your sauce, which should be simmering away by now. Return the lid to the pot and give them another 15 minutes or so.

10) Serve with spaghetti (I won’t bother with the instructions for that).

In order for this meal to be deemed a complete success, I am required to serve it with copious amounts of “sprinkly cheese” (code for Parmesan), “yummy-nummy bread” (code for garlic bread) and Caesar salad (green things they will actually eat).



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