Last month, while looking for a savory brunch dish to feed a crowd, I came across this breakfast casserole recipe on The Merlin Menu. I made the casserole (I’ll write about that another time), and it turned out so well that I perused the blog for other recipes. Lots of entries piqued my interest (I can’t wait to make these cinnamon roll muffins for Christmas), but I had to make Merlin’s meatballs and three-ingredient spaghetti sauce immediately (as in, I read the recipe at 6 a.m. and had gathered the ingredients by 9:30 a.m.). My family adores spaghetti, and Johnny loves meatballs. I knew I hadn’t made the perfect ones quite yet, and I was eager to give this recipe a whirl. Besides, a sauce that requires only a can of tomatoes, a stick of butter and an onion? Sign me up!
Well, to say the meal was a hit is an understatement. When he got home that night and took a bite of the meatballs, Johnny said, “Oh, my GOD! What did you put in these? Crack?!” He’s almost always a fan of my cooking, but when he gets enthusiastic, then I know it was really good. He proceeded to grill me about what was in the meatballs while he stuffed his face. Seriously, the meatballs, simmered in the sauce, are so tender and flavorful. They almost melt in your mouth, but they’re not mushy at all. The kids also loved it, but they love any pasta dish. My favorite part is the sauce — the butter and onion somehow make the tomato flavor pop, and it tastes rich without being greasy. I’ve now made the sauce and meatballs three times, and I like them so much that I’m making them for yet another friend who’s recently had her third baby (hi, Catherine!). My friends are a prolific bunch, which means I never have to look far to satisfy my craving to hold a newborn (and then I get to hand him or her back). Since they’re among my favorites, I wanted to share the recipes with you. A big thank you to The Merlin Menu for these wonderful recipes!
Three-Ingredient Spaghetti Sauce
- One 28-oz can whole or diced roma (plum) tomatoes (The Merlin Menu uses San Marzano brand, and I prefer that, too)
- One stick of butter
- One onion, peeled and cut into quarters
*We like a ton of sauce on our spaghetti, so I actually make two batches — one specifically for the spaghetti, and the other to simmer the meatballs in. That way, I can ladle a generous portion of sauce onto a mound of spaghetti, put the meatballs on, then top it with even more sauce from the meatball pot. If you decide to also make two batches, you’ll need to double the ingredients and use two pots. Oh, and I do also throw in some shredded fresh basil leaves if I have them on hand.
A quick note: If you’re also planning on making the meatballs, I’d recommend having the meat mixture (which requires 20 minutes of fridge time before it can be formed into meatballs) ready to go by the time you have the sauce on the stove. That way, you can shape the meatballs during the first 20 minutes of the sauce’s simmering time. The meatball recipe follows the sauce recipe.
- If you’re using whole tomatoes, cut them up a bit. I just pour a little bit of the juice from the can into the pot I’ll be using, stick a pair of clean kitchen shears in the can and cut haphazardly about a dozen times, then pour the contents into the pan along with the juice that I had poured out a few seconds ago.
- Put the butter and onion quarters into the pot. If you have fresh basil and would like to use it, put it in, too. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is done, add salt to taste (you may not need much if you used salted butter). Remove and discard the onions.
If you’re just making the sauce and not the meatballs, you’re done! If you’d like to make the meatballs, read on.
- 1 cup Breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 1 cup ground Parmesan Cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley*
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced, or pressed
*I’ve never used the parsley, only because, like Carrie from Sex and the City, I’m “allergic” to parsley. 😉 I’m sure it adds yet another dimension to the wonderful flavor of the meatballs, though!
- Mix milk and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Place beef and pork in a bowl and add cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic, nutmeg and beaten eggs.
- Drain milk from breadcrumbs and add to meat mixture.
- Mix all ingredients together gently by hand. Try not to compress or squeeze the meat mixture. You’re trying
to just combine them thoroughly and yet keep a “looseness” to the meat.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes so it will be easier to shape into meatballs.
- Shape into meatballs about the size of a golf ball using a gentle touch. Add directly to cooking sauce 30 minutes before the sauce is done.
While the sauce and meatballs are going, boil a pot of water and cook a package of spaghetti. When the sauce and meatballs are ready, top the pasta generously with sauce and meatballs, sprinkle on some shaved parmesan, and enjoy!