Cutting right to it – lets start with making the sauce for the meatballs. This can be done with a pot over the stove, or in a crock pot. Here I’m just using a recipe with canned tomatoes, but I also love to make homemade sauce (and will be sure to come out with that recipe later!) Also, if I know I’m making this for dinner, I wake up at about 7:00 am to get the sauce cooking – it’s definitely worth it.
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:
- Minced garlic
- Chili flakes
- Canned tomatoes – chopped (How many cans is dependent on how many people you are cooking for, or if you want leftovers. You definitely want leftovers)
- Fresh parsley & basil, chopped, for garnish
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Set the pot over a medium-high stove. Once heated, drizzle in olive oil and add chili flakes and garlic. Stir until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, hot chili flakes, and fresh parsley and basil. This is all to your desired taste- nothing is measured, so start with less and continue to build. At first the sauce will still have a bitter taste, but this will go away once cooked in with the meat. Because I cook the meatballs in the sauce, I’m worried less about the seasoning here.
Continuing on to make the meatballs:
Ingredients for Meatballs:
- Ground beef (can be mixed with pork)
- This depends on how many you are cooking for. For example, I use 4-5 packs (approximately 1,500 g) of meat for 4 hungry people with intentions to have leftovers.
- Whole milk ricotta cheese – or milk – or a small bit of both
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- Breadcrumbs (Panko is best, otherwise you can season regular breadcrumbs)
- 2 eggs (or 1 if using less meat – this is all proportional)
- Cloves garlic, minced
- Olive Oil
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, hot chili flakes, thyme & oregano (small amount used to taste)
- Fresh herbs: Parsley (Italian flat leaf), basil
Place meat in a large bowl and add in the remaining ingredients. Since I do not measure, I add less at first and continue to work in the ingredients. (I will even get the pan hot and ready to do a small taste test until it’s just right). You should see small bits of garlic and parsley evenly dispersed.
(For relative measure, I add a heaping spoon of ricotta (or you can use a bit of ricotta and a dash of milk, or one or the other), about ½ cup or more of Parmesan, 5-6 cloves of finely minced garlic, few springs of parsley… Breadcrumbs are to help bind, should not be too much or too little).
Mix well with hands and form into medium size balls. Make the sure pan is hot (medium-high heat) with oil. Add in balls but do not crowd the pan. Let sit until golden brown and crispy,. Do this to 2-3 sides of the meatball but do not let them cook all the way. Add to the sauce as each meatball gets browed.
Before closing the lid on the meatballs and sauce, I add a few basil leaves, more Parmesan, and some red chili flakes on top (I don’t stir this in because I love the look of how it all comes together after cooking on low for a few hours) The key is to leave the sauce and meatballs on a very low setting and sit all day. The recipe is simple, but the flavor builds the more the sauce and meat meld together.
I’ll end on one note: this sauce freezes wonderfully. Save the rest for a rainy day – you’ll be so happy you did. My favorite thing to do with any remaining meatballs is make a meatball sub with a toasty bread, covered in mayonnaise and hot chili flakes.