Italian Meatballs

30 Jul


I’ve been a little obsessed with reading cookbooks and food magazines lately. I came a cross a cookbook/memoir called Dinner: A Love Story, in which the author Jenny Rosenstrach tells the story of how she and her husband built and sustained a family dinner routine in the midst of busy schedules. Interspersed throughout the book are various recipes that have been a hit in her home. Although the book focuses on how to create valuable family time at the dinner table, it more broadly provides tips and ideas for any busy person who is trying to find easy, hearty homemade meals that can be prepared fairly quickly in the middle of a busy week. It’s a great book.

I was intrigued by this recipe in the book because it seemed simple and used ingredients that I usually have on hand. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to make this, but I think that once you get the hang of it, it would go much faster.  Overall, I liked the recipe, but thought it could use two things: more sauce and more flavor in the meat. My recipe below, has some changes to accommodate my tastes, but fairly closely follows that original.

Italian Meatballs

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Red pepper flakes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
Small handful fresh thyme or basil, chopped

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil until shimmering and saute onion and garlic and a few red pepper flakes over medium low heat until onions are soft.
  2. Add tomato paste and sugar and stir for about 1-2 minutes. Add about 1 cup of water and stir. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, oregano, fennel, and thyme or basil, and stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low . Let sauce cook uncovered until thickened while making the meatballs, 15 to 30 minutes. Add more water if sauce gets too thick.

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (if using regular bread crumbs add 1 tsp of Italian seasoning or oreagano and some salt)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for frying

  1. In a large bowl, combine meat, bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, fennel, salt, and pepper. Mix together with your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Roll meat into balls (about the size of golf balls) and set aside on a plate.
  2. Add some olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium high. Begin browning meatballs, in batches, turning frequently. Remove when browned on all sides and place in pot with sauce. When all the meatballs are browned and added to the sauce, cover and continue cooking over low heat for at least 30 minutes. Serve over pasta, and topped with extra Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story



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