Meatballs and sausage are just about the most favorite accompaniment to spaghetti or other pasta for most folks. As I was growing up, I think meatballs were my very favorite. I did not have an appreciation for sausage until later in life. As I recall, pork sausage could be chewy and contain large pieces of fat. Not the healthiest of foods. Today there are numerous types of sausages besides pork, such as turkey, chicken and vegetarian. However, if you want an authentic taste then Italian pork sausages are the way to go.
About 10 years ago I discovered Fortuna ‘s Sausage Company located in Rhode Island and was very pleased with their product. The sausage is made with all natural , hand trimmed pork and comes from small farms across the region. The sausage comes in a number of flavors and is not fatty. I have included a link below, if you would like to see the products they sell.
When it comes to cooking meatballs or sausage, my method is different from my mother’s. She would mix the meatball ingredients, form the meatballs and fry them in oil before adding them to the tomato sauce. In fact some of my relatives prepared the meat in the same pan that they later cooked the tomato sauce in, leaving all the fat that came from the meat in the pan and then into the sauce. Even frying the meat in a skillet, as my mother did, added fat to this dish. So to avoid this added fat, I bake the meatballs and sausage in a hot oven and then add them to the sauce. I like to think that my method is much healthier.
My usual preparation is to spray two 9″ x 13″ glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In one dish I place 1 lb. of Italian sausage cut into 3 inch links. The second dish will hold the meatballs and the recipe is as follows:
- 2 lbs. lean ground meat (beef and pork) or you can use all beef
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 cup warm water
In a large mixing bowl place the bread crumbs and warm water. Mix and let rest for about 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except the meat and mix well.
Add the meat and mix with your hands just until combined. Over mixing causes the meat to toughen.
Wet your hands and form the meatballs. A traditional size is 2-3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. I usually get about 16 meatballs. Place them in a greased baking dish.
Bake the sausage and the meatballs until brown, about 40 minutes, turning them half way through the baking time. Remove the meat to a tray lined with paper towels to drain.
Add the meat to the tomato sauce during the second hour and let them simmer in the sauce for an hour. The recipe for the sauce was in yesterday’s post. Just click on the link.
Meatballs and sausage to serve with cooked spaghetti.
My goal for this blog is to share with you what I have learned from my grandparents and parents about good Italian home cooking. Creating Italian dinners should not be difficult or time consuming and they should be healthy as well as delicious. In future posts I will share with you more information about my relatives and their enthusiasm for cooking. One of the first things I learned was the importance of a quality tomato sauce, either marinara or meat based, as so many Italian dishes rely on such a sauce. It is not difficult to make your own sauce and you will know what is in it. Jarred sauce often contains sugar, too much salt and preservatives or additives.
Start with quality canned tomatoes. I prefer the boxed 28 oz. POMI Italian chopped tomatoes. The only ingredient in this product is tomatoes. If you can’t find this product, try to find tomatoes with as few added ingredients as possible, such as Muir Glen.
You can prepare this sauce on the weekend, if you have a busy week schedule. This recipe makes enough sauce for several meals and you can keep some of the sauce for up to a week in the refrigerator for a weeknight dinner and you can freeze the rest in several containers for a few other meals.
In the next post I will tell you how to prepare meatballs and sausage to add to this basic sauce.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
- 1 carrot, chopped fine
- 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
- 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.
- Salt and pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.
Add 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi tomatoes.
Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.
Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.
Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.