Polly Macdavid March 1st, 2017
The Kitchen Witch: Spaghetti and Meat Balls
The big holiday in March is Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17 and while some pagans refuse to celebrate it, I almost always cook up a pile of corned beef and cabbage, with carrots and potatoes and onions, and maybe turnips and parsnips as well. Or perhaps a big bowl of Irish stew, made with either lamb or beef, and some Irish Soda Bread for dipping. I may revere the Goddess in all Her forms but I do love to cook and any excuse works for me.
A lesser-known holiday is Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19. Again, not a Pagan holiday but still noteworthy in terms of food. Many churches will set up what is called a “Saint Joseph’s table” filled with (mostly) Italian goodies and invite their parishioners and anyone else who needs a meal for the feast. If you like Italian food, this holiday is for you. Of course, I like everything, and Italian food is no different.
It’s so easy, nowadays, to just go to the supermarket and buy a jar of spaghetti sauce – really good sauce – and meatballs, either fresh from the meat case or frozen – that I don’t think many people make their own from “scratch” anymore. But it’s not very hard and really doesn’t take much time. And like all things made homemade, it’s so worth it! There’s magic when you make it yourself! But you already knew that, didn’t you?
The first thing I do is make the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For twelve medium-sized meatballs, you want to use one pound of ground beef. Some people use a mixture of ground meats – often called “meatloaf mix” – ground beef, pork and veal – if you remember the prison scene from the movie “Goodfellas”, you might remember how they insisted that the “flavor” in the sauce came from the “pork” – “You gotta have the pork, there’s your flavor” – but my mother never used anything but ground round for her meatballs – that’s 85% lean beef. But we’re not Italian. And I have used venison-beef mix; venison-meatloaf mix; ground turkey; beef-turkey mix; honestly, it’s up to you.
Here’s the recipe: 1 pound ground meat of your choice
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced onion
Garlic salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Put the meat into a large bowl and add the bread crumbs, cheese and minced onion. Season with garlic salt and the freshly ground pepper.
At this point, I mix it up by hand.
When it’s uniformly mixed, I add the eggs and continue mixing it with my hands. If you don’t like the feeling of raw meat on your bare hands, wear latex gloves or use a food processor. When it’s all completely mixed, start making the meatballs.
My mother always made meatballs that were the size of baseballs. When I first left the house and started eating in restaurants, I was amazed that commercial meatballs were tiny! No larger than a good-sized walnut. My meatballs are about the size of a billiard ball. I can fit twelve of them into a 9×9 pan.
Put them into the oven and let them bake for about a half an hour or until they’re nice and brown. Meanwhile, start your sauce.
You will need: 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped mushrooms
½ cup chopped fresh onions
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato paste
½ cup red wine
Parsley, oregano, basil, garlic powder, freshly ground pepper, bay leaf
Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the can of tomato sauce, stirring well, and then the diced tomatoes. The tomato paste is next and it goes without saying that you have to stir very vigorously to get the paste completely mixed in! Then add the wine and the seasonings. I didn’t put down exact measurements for the seasonings because to me, it’s a matter of taste – some of us like more oregano and some of us like less! (There’s a famous “Andy Griffith Show” episode about this – Andy Taylor eats spaghetti at everyone’s house when Aunt Bea is away visiting and everyone’s “secret ingredient” is oregano). And of course, just before serving, you have to taste it and adjust your seasonings – my mother always added more wine.
When your meatballs are done cooking, you will want to add a few meatballs to the sauce to soak up the flavor of the sauce and to flavor the sauce itself. I only added a few to the sauce and the rest of the meatballs I let cool and then individually wrapped up and froze for use in a few weeks – there’s no way I can eat twelve meatballs in one sitting! I let the sauce and the meatballs simmer on the lowest setting for over an hour. I put the cover on the pan so that my stove wasn’t covered with red spots (but of course it was anyway!)
So all you have to do now is cook your pasta and serve your meal. Here is what my plate looked like:
With a piece of bread and a salad, that’s one righteous meal. Filling, too! I had a quart of sauce left over, which I put into the freezer for future use with the meatballs I froze, so my personal St. Joseph’s table will continue into the spring months.
So if you’re the kind of person to grab a jar of Prego and a bag of frozen meatballs, try something a little more magical – make your own! Many blessings! Merry meet until next month!