It’s freezing out there. Literally. And to the depths of freezing, too. Run and hide is all we can do. And the best place to hide is in the kitchen.
Here I am. Hiding. Stirring a pot. Chopping an onion. Mushing together some meat. It’s indoor sports with a decidedly yummy intention. (As opposed to outdoor sports: did you see Aaron Rodgers yesterday in 3-degree temps playing 60 minutes of football…read: 3 hours?…I choose indoor sport.)
This is the dish that used to be reserved for Sundays. I used to wake up on a Sunday morn (we’re going back here to kid, maybe even teenage days) to the aroma of a Sunday sauce: meatballs (plus usually some pork element) simmering in a tomato sauce. This aroma was accompanied by warm Sunday Kaiser rolls that my dad picked up from the bakery (which I slathered with butter). While mom stirred the sauce. And my sister, Nina, made a sauce sandwich.
But these frigid times call for better-than-weekday mundanity. I want my Sunday sauce NOW.
It’s not hard to make Sunday sauce. You may have heard tales of the elaborate stand-on-your-head antics that Italian-Americans do to make this concoction. Not necessary. You can stay upright. Let me show you how.
First The Meatballs.
Take 2 slices of sliced bread (usually white) (but here I’ve used Publix Italian multigrain sliced bread). Peel off the edges and break up the middle part into small pieces in a small bowl. Cover with milk. Let soak for about 10-15 minutes until nice and wet. Drain. Add mushed up wet bread to a medium mixing bowl with 1 lb. of ground chuck. Add 1/4 cup grated parmigiano, 1 egg, salt & pepper, 1/4 cup or more minced parsley. Stir with a fork to mix (or dive in now with hands).
Line a sheet pan with foil. Shape meat into 1 or 2-inch balls and place on pan.
Roast in 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until cooked through and starting to brown.
Then The Sauce:
Dice a small onion. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Then add the minced garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes more. Add a 1/4 cup of dry white wine. Let evaporate. Then add your tomatoes. What tomatoes you wonder? Well, any, really.
I used 2 28-oz cans: Cento crushed and Nina whole peeled plums (I cut them up while still in the can with a pair of scissors). Let the sauce simmer on medium low until bubbly. Season well with salt & pepper (add some hot pepper if you like, too). Let bubble for about 20 minutes. When meatballs are done, put them in the sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes more.
Boil your pasta (I’m going to assume you’ve got that part. If not, ask me). I used fusilli lunghi. I LOVE this pasta (and it was a favorite of my dad’s). You can’t find it everywhere. If you’re local to Nashville, I know you can find it at Coco’s Italian Market.
Drain pasta when done. Get it coated with sauce. No pasta drowning in sauce here. A simple coating with a bit extra per serving. Add a few meatballs to each serving and dust with grated parmigiano. So easy. VERY good.
You can even make this in the summer when you’re hiding in the kitchen from the heat.