Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marinara & Farmstand Meatballs

Spaghetti Dinner
courtesy of Food To Live By

Having a supply of marinara sauce on hand can be a great help on a busy day. In less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered, you can boil a pot of pasta and warm up the sauce. Vegetarians can add sautéed mushrooms or eggplant; meat lovers can add meatballs, Italian sausage, ground beef, or pancetta. This recipe multiplies easily, so stock up!

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry red wine or broth
5 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, coarsely chopped, and juices reserved,
or 2 cans (28 ounces each) diced or crushed tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, optional

Place the garlic and carrot in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the onion and continue to pulse until minced, scraping the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula 3 or 4 times.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, about 11 minutes. Add the wine and stir well, loosening any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Add the basil, oregano, and thyme, and let simmer gently until the flavors are concentrated, 35 to 45 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and, if the sauce tastes too tart or acidic, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar.

If you're not planning to use the sauce immediately, let it cool to room temperature. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. It freezes well, too, for up to 3 months.

About peeling tomatoes: Peeling tomatoes is easy to do if you blanch them briefly in boiling water first. The hot water loosens the skin so it slips off easily. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it close to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, lower the tomatoes into the boiling water and let them cook until the skin splits, about 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes and plunge them into the ice water, letting them soak until they're cool enough to handle. Using a paring knife, cut out the tomato cores and slip off the peels.


Serves 20 two-inch meatballs
Meatballs are a handy item to have in your freezer when you need to create lunch or dinner in a hurry. They can be baked in the oven or cooked on the stove-top. Once they cool to room temperature, place them on a tray in the freezer, and when solidly frozen, transfer the meatballs to freezer bags or containers. Defrost them in the refrigerator and add them to soups, slice them for sandwiches, or serve them with purchased tomato sauce or homemade Farm Stand Marinara Sauce for a classic spaghetti and meatballs repast.

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
1 cup dry, unseasoned bread crumbs or crushed saltine crackers
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with oiled aluminum foil (for easier clean-up); set aside.

Combine the eggs, milk, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Mix in the cheese and bread crumbs.

Break up the ground beef and pork with your hands and add it to the bowl. Using your hands, combine the mixture until it's thoroughly blended but working the meat as little as possible. A light touch mixing and forming the meatballs guarantees they'll be tender.

Gently form the meat mixture into 2-inch round balls and place on the prepared baking tray, positioned so they don't touch each other.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F.

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