On our first anniversary, I told Alan I’d make anything he wanted for dinner, assuming it would be something we couldn’t usually afford, like lobster or steak. Do you know what he wanted? Spaghetti and meatballs! It was then I realized he might be Scottish by heritage, but he has an Italian stomach! So, for the next forty-five years, if I really want to spoil him, I roll out that ever-lovin’ classic, spaghetti and meatballs! It’s so simple that you probably don’t think it’s even worth discussing, but I have found a few ways to add taste points that make it more memorable, and I’ll include those at the end. Meanwhile, here’s the basic:
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
(serves 6± depending on how much you eat!!)
Add together in a large mixing bowl:
1 pound hamburger (or ground chuck, ground round, or whatever you like)
1 cup bread crumbs (make your own by toasting old bread and crushing the slices in a paper bag with a rolling pin, or buy some already made)
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning (or your favorite)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (fresh is best, but you can use commercially prepared or even crushed, dried garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or 1 finely chopped onion if you’re an onion lover)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper Mix thoroughly (may as well get your hands dirty; it takes less time) and form into golf-ball-sized balls (or smaller, depending on your taste). Fry in a large skillet until well browned and cooked through, turning carefully just once or twice so they don’t burn. . . or fall apart on you.
Meanwhile, prepare your Pasta Sauce:
In a very large saucepan, saute with 2 tablespoons of butter:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large pepper, chopped (any color you choose; green works fine and provides good color contrast, but other colors are sweeter)
8 oz. chopped mushrooms (any edible variety you like!)
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s, but use whatever you like)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (There’s an old saying that families should eat their pasta together, and I’m quite sure it’s because good pasta is loaded with garlic, which tastes great going down but is sure to displease your friends if it’s on your breath but not theirs!)
Once the veggies are tender, add:
1 large can of stewed, diced Italian tomatoes
1 jar pasta sauce (your favorite; I use Prego flavored with meat, but there are a lot of good brands and varieties out there) Simmer until all the ingredients are hot and well mixed, then add the meatballs gently into the pot with the veggies and let it all simmer away for at least another half an hour (can be longer). If you’ve used hamburger, and there’s a lot of grease floating on top, spoon off as much as you can and throw it away. Grease=flavor, but it also=calories, so a little goes a long way.
While your meatballs are simmering in the sauce, cook the pasta. You can suit yourself as to the type you want to use, and just follow the directions on the side of the box. . .or make your own if you’re really a pasta aficionado! Theoretically, I’ve heard that Italians like their pasta “al dente,” which means “to the tooth” and refers to pasta that is neither too crunchy nor too soft, so that it appeals to your teeth when they bite into it! I don’t mind my pasta pretty well done, but the advantage of starting out al dente is that if you accidentally have any left over (which happens!), then if you rewarm it, the pasta doesn’t become too mushy to be good. But, it’s totally personal preference! My husband definitely wants his al dente!
Add any (but not all) of these to create memorable taste points:
*An extra pound of grilled and chopped Italian sausage
*A small jar of capers
*4-8 oz. of diced, sun-dried tomatoes
*1 cup chopped olives (black, green, or whatever you have on hand!)
* A small jar of smoked egg plants, diced
* “Primavera” refers to “in the style of spring” and usually means pasta served with a mixture of fresh vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or zucchini. However, you can also add any of of a number of veggies to the basic sauce to increase the nutritive value and add color and texture. Just make sure you don’t overcook the veggies so that they become discolored and mushy. Add them in the last 5-10 minutes before you serve them. Serve your pasta hot, and if you have any, have some grated cheese and crushed pepper available for people to add as they please. The traditional meal includes a side salad, garlic bread, and grape juice. Okay, so maybe in Italy it’s wine, but at my house it’s grape juice! 🙂 Hope you enjoy!
“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9, ESV).