Spaghetti & Meatballs

Bear with me, I’m having a Sandra Lee moment.

You know Sandra Lee, right?  The uber-perky blonde on the Food Network, who’s always planning a party or making dinner out of pre-packaged ingredients?  I think her show is called “Semi Homemade”?  Going to the outer limits with her attention to detail, Sandy features instructions for fancy ‘tablescapes’, themed flowers and party favors…even wacky window treatments to tie in with her meal d’jour.  Some even require the use of a hot glue gun.

Who has time for that?  I mean, seriously.  If you’re using pre-packaged ingredients, doesn’t that indicate that you’re probably challenged for time?  More than likely you don’t have all day to cook from scratch, let alone scour Michaels and JoAnne Fabrics in search of silk flowers and calico for a party-themed cornice board.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Having said all that, I’m pulling a Sandra Lee on you today, minus the faux flower napkin rings and handmade placecards (besides, I haven’t seen my glue gun in years).  My daughter has requested Spaghetti & Meatballs for dinner, but we have a jam-packed schedule later on, and 100% homemade is just not in the cards this afternoon.

You know by now that it’s important for me to use real food in my cooking, but I do take the help from convenience products now and then.  Today I’m going to make the meatballs from scratch (with the Tallgrass ground beef that’s on sale), but punt with the marinara and use jarred Alessi’s sauce (also on sale).  The end result will taste homemade, because I’m going to blast the meatballs in the oven to quickly brown them, then finish cooking them in the sauce on the stove.  This method not only saves time, but also eliminates the icky, greasy mess on my stovetop from browning them in hot oil.

Alongside we’re having a simple tossed salad (romaine is on sale) and mini Italian baguettes (also on sale).  I might pick up an extra baguette or two to make subs with the leftover meatballs another night this week.  Genius, right?

Enjoy this time saving version of Spaghetti and Meatballs, and mum’s the word about my Sandra Lee moment.  I’ll deny it to the never ending!


Serves: 6

Source:  Barefoot Contessa Family Style, by Ina Garten, pp. 102-103

For the meatballs:

  • ½ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground beef (Tallgrass lean ground chuck is on sale!)
  • 1 c. fresh white breadcrumbs (4 slices, crusts removed, pulse them in your food processor – Classic Wonder Bread is on sale and would be fine here)
  • ¼ c. seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan (ahem, ix-nay on the een-gray an-cay)
  • 2 t. salt
  • ½ t. freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • Your favorite jarred sauce (Alessi’s is on sale, I used two jars of their basic marinara)
  • 1 T. fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • Hot cooked spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan for serving

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a cookie sheet with foil for easy cleanup, spray it lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients plus ¼ cup warm water.  Don’t over mix, or you’ll have tough meatballs.  Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2” balls, you will have 14-16 large meatballs. (**See note.)

Place the meatballs on the sheet pan.  Bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned on the outside.  Meanwhile, place the jarred sauce in a 4-6 quart saucepan.  Stir in the Italian parsley. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.

Transfer the meatballs to the saucepan and cover.  Simmer on the lowest heat for 25-30 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the Parmesan cheese at the table.

**Note:  I always make my meatballs much smaller; I usually end up with about two to two and a half dozen.  After I’ve browned them in the oven, I separate them out, cooling and freezing a dozen or so for a rainy day.  I’m always happy to find them in the freezer when I don’t feel like cooking!

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | September 28th, 2009