The Best Homemade(ish) Meatballs
Now that bikini season is over (sort of, unless you live here in southern California), some of my favorite comfort foods are rearing their tempting little heads again. I love a thick, rich meat sauce when I need something to warm up my tummy and my bones, but I hate making meatballs from scratch. Every time I do it, it’s so much work and trouble and I tell myself to never do it again. So now, I make homemade(ish) meatballs instead. Here’s how:
Buy handmade meatballs from the store. Nothing frozen or machine-made, friends. Check with your butcher and I can almost guarantee they make fresh meatballs by hand and they are very reasonably priced. Probably very similar to the ones your mother/grandmother/great grandmother used to make, but…bland. Always bland. Because this is the butcher’s kitchen, not yours, and he needs to appeal to every customer that walks up to his counter. Bland. So here’s how to jazz them up:
Brown them on all sides in a few tablespoons of olive oil and then add a big can of crushed tomatoes. You can add a jar of sauce here instead if you insist but thick, real crushed tomatoes really are much better.
Stir and mix and cover the meatballs completely in the sauce. I like to cut mine in half at this point so they’re more manageable for cooking and eating. You can also chop them up completely to make it a meat sauce. It’s that easy.
Add: fresh minced garlic, salt and pepper, fennel seeds, dried basil, a splash of dry red wine and garlic powder. Lots of garlic powder. It makes everything taste better, I am convinced. All of this is “to taste” but be liberal. You need to be aggressive with this sauce and it’s well worth it. If you think you have enough of something, add a little more.
And don’t skip the fennel. You think you will never use fennel but once you’ve added it to this sauce – or any red sauce, for that matter – you realize you will never cook Italian without it again.
Let it simmer away over low heat. For a while. Maybe 20 minutes, maybe 45, if you have the time. Let it get thick and rich. Once in a while, grate a little fresh parmesan on top and stir it in. And hey, maybe another shake or two of garlic powder.
When it’s done, serve with pasta or spaghetti squash (that’s how we had it the other night and it was to die for) and save some for leftovers.
This sauce just gets better with age. Just like your bikini body 😉