I love these sunny spring days - so much so that I end up spending most of the day outside. Theo and I usually visit at least one playground every morning, we walk to do most of our errands, then in the late afternoon, little peanut gets strapped into his stroller with an arsenal of snacks so the dog and I get our turn to get exercise.
By the time we come in to make dinner, the air has usually cooled down and we're craving something hot and comforting. A hearty tangle of marinara-tossed spaghetti topped with tender meatballs is the ultimate.
I riffed on my go-to meatloaf recipe to make the most tender, amazing meatballs ever. The secret is milk-soaked bread. The meatballs are browned in batches before simmering away in the sauce. This step is not only crucial to the flavour, but searing the outside is what makes them hold together in the marinara.
The sauce starts with a generous pour of olive oil - I now a half-cup sounds like a lot, but trust me - when you taste an incredible sauce in a restaurant, the flavour is almost certainly due to a long simmer and more olive oil than this. Plus, it makes a large batch - at least enough for a family of four for two nights. So really only a tablespoon per serving. (In case you're like me, and would hesitate. Plus - healthy fats!)
I've been relying heavily on these big-batch meals lately (which is partly why I haven't been posting all that much - because we ate bakedbeans four nights last week, and spaghetti for three nights after that!). We're heading to Hawaii next week (YIPEE!!!! Give me a cold drink with an umbrella and a lounger near the pool, please) but I'll step up my game again after that, promise. :)
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 8 servingsServings
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 slices white bread
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 onion, grated
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
- 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 28-oz cans diced or whole tomatoes with juice
- salt, to taste
- 2 tbsp minced fresh basil
- 1 lb spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
- grated parmesan, for serving
Place milk and eggs in a medium bowl and beat to combine. Tear bread into small pieces and stir into milk mixture. Let stand until milk is combined and bread is falling apart, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, grated onion, parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add soaked bread and use your hands to gently, but thoroughly, combine. Form the mixture into 1-1/2" balls, about the size of golf balls.
Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When shimmering hot, add half of the meatballs in a single layer and brown on all sides (they'll be cooked through later). Gently transfer to a plate, and repeat with remaining meatballs.
To make sauce:
Wipe out the dutch oven with a paper towel and add remaining olive oil along with onion. Cook on medium heat until onion is soft and translucent, but not browning, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender or with a regular blender (in batches, unless it has steam vents for pureeing hot foods). Return sauce to pot and gently add meatballs. Simmer over medium-low for about 25 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt, and stir in basil just before serving.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in salted, boiling water until al dente according to package directions. Serve spaghetti topped with sauce and meatballs, with a showering of freshly grated parmesan.