Everyone says that spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce is a kid-friendly food. One of the ultimate favorites. Way up there in the top 10, maybe even top 5, on the kids’ food list. Well, at least that’s the theory. But in our household? Not so much.
I always wondered why magazines/restaurants/cookbooks make that claim because every time I made this dish, aiming to make my son happy with this supposedly kid-friendly meal, he refused to eat it. I made spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce numerous times hoping that he will warm up to it. Finally, I came to the conclusion that he is not a tomato sauce fan, even more than he dislikes ground meat in any shape and size, whether a meatloaf, burger, round or flat meatballs (should they be called meatflats in that case?). He is a cheese and/or butter sauce type of guy. Last week, I made it again. Surprisingly, everyone was licking their red sauce covered lips and wiping their faces with napkins.
But my goal is not to cook kid-friendly meals.
My goal is mostly different. It is to create memorable meals. The kind that my children will remember when they grow up. The kind that they will miss when they become adults. The kind that will bring them back home to me after they fly away and leave the nest. I think that this spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce is that kind of dish. Same as stuffed bell peppers.
Now, I’ll tell you a little secret, come close – I used a jarred marinara sauce. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. I know my kids won’t remember the jar, but they will remember having pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce at their parents’ home because I plan to make it again and again and again. When I took the photo of the leftovers the next day, when I warmed it for my lunch, I thought that if I was a kid I would have remembered this dish as a childhood favorite. Slurping the long spaghetti strands, making a mess all over my face, and sinking my teeth into the two-bite-size meatballs covered with a sweet and thick tomato sauce will bring out the child hidden in any grown-up.
Spaghetti with beef meatballs
I used fresh bread crumbs flavored with fresh herbs which I make every time I have leftover bread and herbs that are about to go bad. (Click the link for the recipe). It makes one big shortcut when a recipe calls for breadcrumbs and chopped herbs.
Makes 8 servings
For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground (preferably grass-fed) beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus a few sprigs with leaves for the sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan or any other hard yellow cheese, plus 1/2 cup more for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Canola and/or olive oil for frying
1 (25 oz.) jar good marinara sauce
1 package spaghetti
Put the meat, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Mix lightly with your hands and form into two-bite-size meatballs.
Pour canola and/or olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil over medium heat. In batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides, turning carefully with a spoon or tongs. Don’t crowd the skillet. This will take about 10 minutes for each batch. Remove the fried meatballs to a plate. Discard the oil and lightly wipe the pan with clean paper towels.
In the same pan, heat the marinara sauce, scraping all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Add parsley, salt, and pepper. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
While the meatballs are cooking in the sauce, cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package.
Serve the meatballs hot over the cooked spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan.