Meatballs, Southern Italian Style
My Italian upbringing meant meatballs in the house—meatballs covered with marinara, fried meatballs, baked meatballs, meatball sandwiches—you name it. These meatballs are easy to prepare, the ingredients are affordable, and it’s the ideal meal for lunch or dinner. Your family will love it so much that you’ll want to make these often.
Southern Italian-Style Meatballs
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (or Maria’s Marinara Sauce; see recipe)
- 12 medium-size ripe tomatoes
- 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
- Red wine (optional)
- 3 tablespoons dried basil
- 3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 6 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- Chicken bouillon, to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30–35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel and core. Place in a blender, in small batches, and puree until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to a large saucepot; bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency (You can substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients; cover and simmer over low heat for about 25–30 minutes.
- 1 (16-ounce) package spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
- 1 block of Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish
Preheat oven to broil. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; incorporate thoroughly. Roll the meat between the palms of your hands to desired size. Place meatballs on a broiling pan, and cook in the oven, turning often, until brown and cooked through. Serve with marinara sauce.
Maria’s Marinara Sauce
It was my father who started his own slow food revolution in our family, a revolution I carry on in my family today. He picked olives and tended his large organic garden of fruits and vegetables, including fava beans, escarole, rapini, and broccoli, he cherished the Roma and plum tomatoes as his most prized possession. Buy some organic tomatoes at the farmers’ market and make this sauce. Serve it over pasta, over your favorite vegetables or simply for dipping with a crusty Italian baguette. I guarantee you and your family will love it.
For the pasta:
Place the pasta in a large bowl. Ladle some sauce over pasta and toss gently. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Recipes and photos by Maria Desiderata Montana, publisher of the award-winning food blog San Diego Food Finds (sandiegofoodfinds.com). Montana is a nationally published and award-winning author, freelance food and wine journalist and editor and photographer who learned how to cook and appreciate European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in southern Italy. Get her cookbooks on AMAZON.