Southern Italian Meatballs & Marinara Sauce
Recipe by Damon Lee Fowler, featuring
Salt Table’s Southern Italian Grinder Blend
Seasoning traditional Italian-style meatballs is a cinch with The Salt Table’s Southern Italian Blend. Although spaghetti and meatballs are a standard weeknight meal in our country, meatballs are not served as a pasta sauce in Italy. These can be used Italian-style, as a meat dish, or American-style as a pasta sauce or hot sandwich filling
Serves 4-6 (makes about 20 meatballs)
For the meatballs:
- 1 thick slice firm, home-style bread
- Whole milk
- 1 pound ground chuck beef
- ¼ cup finely minced yellow onion
- Salt Table Southern Italian Grinder Blend
- Olive oil or a blend of olive and vegetable oil
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- ¾ cup dry red wine such as merlot or pinot noir
- 4 cups marinara sauce (good bottled or Southern Italian Marinara, recipe following)
- Salt (for the pasta, if using)
- 12-16 ounces spaghetti, thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta, for serving, optional
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving optional
HOW TO MAKE
- Put the bread in a mixing bowl and drizzle enough milk over it to saturate it. Let it soak for a minute, then squeeze it dry, discarding the milk. Crumble the bread into the bowl. Crumble in the beef and add the onion. Season well with Southern Italian Blend and mix until everything is evenly blended. Moisten your hands with water and form the meat into 1½-inch balls.
- Put enough oil in a 3-4 quart Dutch oven to cover the bottom by ¼-inch and put it over medium heat. When it’s hot, raise the heat to medium high, add enough meatballs to fill the pan without crowding, and brown them on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a plate and repeat until all the meatballs have been browned.
- Drain and discard the browning oil and wipe out the pan, but don’t wash it. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the onion and return the pot to medium heat. Sauté, stirring often, until the onion is softened and golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about half a minute, then pour in the wine. Bring it to a boil and cook until it loses its sharp alcoholic aroma. Add in the marinara, bring it to a simmer, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce, bring it back to a simmer, and adjust the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Simmer until the sauce is thick and the meatballs are very tender and deeply flavored with the sauce, at least 1 hour—longer won’t hurt.
- The meatballs can be served as a meat dish, on toasted sandwich rolls as a sandwich filling, or as a sauce for pasta. To serve the meatballs with pasta, bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil. Stir in a small handful of salt and the pasta, bring it back to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente (firm to the bite), using the package directions as a rough guide. Drain and toss with a cup of sauce, then serve topped with meatballs, passing the cheese separately.
Basic “Southern Italian” Marinara
- You can use a jar of marinara for the above recipe, (they’re right at 4 cups) or make your own: it’s easy with The Salt Table’s Southern Italian Grinder Blend. Southern Italian Blend has garlic powder in it, so you can omit the fresh garlic, although it freshens the flavor.
Makes about 4 cups
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced, optional
- 2 25-ounce cans crushed Italian plum tomatoes
- Southern Italian Grinder Blend
HOW TO MAKE
- Put the oil and onion in a 3-4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté until the onion is pale gold, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, if using, and sauté until fragrant, about half a minute.
- Add the tomatoes and season well with Southern Italian Blend. Bring it to a boil, then adjust the heat to a slow, steady simmer, and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and the flavors are well-blended, about half an hour.