What today seems to be a dinnertime staple for busy families, spaghetti and meatballs (or meat sauce) was not something found on my childhood dinner table (see Snow and Spaghetti). And, technically, since I was a farm kid, it’s “supper table”, not “dinner table”.
In college, spaghetti with marinara sauce (usually the cheapest jar of spaghetti sauce I could find) was a once-a-week, affordable, and filling meal. As a splurge, my roommates and I might scrape together a couple of dollars to buy a pound of Italian sausage to add to the sauce. Usually, the smell of the sausage cooking would have the added bonus of bringing the cute guys who lived in the upstairs apartment down for a visit with stomachs growling. Why didn’t I think of subsidizing my college expenses by cooking for other students? Talk about entrepreneurship!
After we were married and had kids, spaghetti with meat sauce was one of the meals my husband would make. He would always mention how his mom would make meatballs and let them simmer in spaghetti sauce for hours and how much he loved breaking apart those tender meatballs.
Shortly after a good friend gave me the recipe for her Sweet & Sour Meatballs, it dawned on me that this recipe could easily be adapted for Italian meals. I realize there are tons and tons of Italian meatball recipes out there but, in my defense, this was before Pinterest (gasp!) and modifying a tried-and-true recipe is always great place to start.
This recipe has become a family favorite, not only for spaghetti with meatballs but also for meatball hoagies, minestrone-style soups, pizza topping, and amazing appetizers. One batch will make about 120 small meatballs (about 1 1/2″ diameter) which means I have enough for a big Italian dinner and plenty to freeze for future meals (or for my boys to steal on their next trip home).
No, I am not above bribing my kids with food.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound Italian sausage
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning*
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine all ingredients and half of the milk in a large bowl. If the mixture seems dry, add the rest of the milk. The only reason not to add all of the milk is if the mixture is already “soupy” or looking like it may not hold its shape when rolled into balls.
Using a cookie scoop (or just your hands), form into equal-sized (1 1/2″ diameter) balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges brown and center of meatball is no longer pink.
You can make the meatballs any size you want. Just make sure you make them equal in size and adjust baking time accordingly. If you are making them larger than 2″in diameter, drop the oven temperature to 350° to avoid drying out the outside and undercooking the inside.
Tonight, I will surprise my husband with the smell of spaghetti and meatballs when he walks in the door. I have no idea how my meatballs compare to hers and I’m not concerned. I know that they will bring back happy memories of his mom and that, in turn, will make me happy.
That, and the fact that I have more meatballs in the freezer!
Come on home, boys!
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