Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adventures in Pasta: Meatball Marinara

Seven years ago, my dear friend P. John taught me how to make a delicious meatball marina from scratch. He wrote the recipe down for me, and I've made it a handful of times. I seem to have misplaced it yet again, though I am sure it will turn up again soon.

The other day I got it into my head to just wing it. Why not? I grabbed fresh herbs from my garden, threw in some tomato sauce and paste with some water to thin it out, and recreated the meatballs to the best of my ability. The flavor past Fordski's quality check, and it was served with success.

I didn't write down what I did.

So last night, I winged it again. I did it differently, but again it past the quality check, so we feasted happily. This time we made twice as much meatballs, and we used a mixture of ground chicken and turkey. The recipe I'll share here will use only a pound of ground meat, tho, versus the two used last night.

1 lb lean ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, veal, lamb, or some mixture thereof)
1 egg
1/2 as much bread crumbs as beef
1/4 cup Parmesan, or a mixture of Parmesan and Romano
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the whole mess together and form meatballs that are between an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet or stone and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the internal temp is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than well done. (Temperatures vary depending on the meat.) Add them to the sauce at this point and let them finish cooking through as they become one with the sauce.

They're easy to make. Here is the man love helping me out. Quality control manager AND a sous chef? I'm a lucky girl.
Here are the meatballs before going into the oven...
And here they are after as I was placing them into the sauce.

I love using the herbs in my garden in my cooking. I go out with scissors and a collander, so that it's easier to rinse them off all at once. Here we have some basil, parsley, rosemary, and chives.
My basil plant is so awesome. It has so many leaves; as a result, I tend to go overboard when I harvest them. But I also like a strong basil flavor. Here I have 17 leaves, but you could use less.
My parsley is thriving as well. This is about a handful right here after cutting off the excess stems.
I am not a big onion fan. However, it is a necessary evil because it enhances the flavor of the marinara and many other dishes. I like to think of chives as a friendlier substitute, because they have the onion flavor, but are more pleasant for someone like me to consume. These are garlic chives; even better! There's about six strands/stalks here.
Sweet bebeh geezus, I love rosemary. My plant isn't as big as it's siblings, but it's still healthy. I grabbed two springs for the sauce and just plucked the leaves off to throw into the food processor with 3 sliced garlic cloves and 7 roma tomatoes.
Here are a few other things I used for flavor. I love the Goya brand; Puerto Rico doesn't feel so far away when I can buy these locally. Adobo is a finely ground dry seasoning consisting of salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. This is fortunate, as Fordski didn't make it back from the store in time with the fresh oregano; then tried to trick me into thinking he had actually picked up dill by mistake.
Sazon is another finely ground dry seasoning, and is made up of salt, garlic, and coriander.
Sofrito is a flavor base made of onions, bell peppers, garlic, cilantro, and oregano. These are staples in traditional Puerto Rican cooking, and I grew up watching my mother put these in everything, whether it was Puerto Rican or not. I used 4 Tbsp of adobo, 1 packet of sazon, and 2 Tbsp of sofrito.
I didn't throw everything into my food processor at once. I like to use The Pampered Chef's (tm) Manual Food Processor, which is on the small side.
It has a pump handle that allows you to process the ingredients to the desired consistency. Fordski likes to use it for his salsa (which I am now told is a recipe he will never share; but he's happy to share the guacamole recipe). I processed a few ingredients at a time, and threw them in the pot.
More Goya! This is the most affordable can of tomato sauce for it's size at the commissary on base. Two of these and 2 Tbsp of olive oil joined the hot mess that was forming in the pot. If you want a thicker sauce, feel free to add tomato paste. Let it all simmer, covered, for an hour or so, stirring occasionally and tasting it to make sure it doesn't need less or more of any of the above ingredients per your taste buds.

I failed to snap a photo of the finished product, but rest assured it was successful. I served the sauce and meatballs over small portions of spaghetti, and we enjoyed the meal with our friend and landlord Parodi.

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