Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spaghetti With Loveballs

On Sunday I gathered some of my local food purchases and several thousand cans of tomatoes and endeavored to make my Big Nonnie's spaghetti sauce with meatballs. As you might imagine, this dish is one that I grew up eating every time we visited Nonnie or she visited us. It wasn't until she and Grampa came to visit us here in Oklahoma this past spring that I realized what a huge chore it was to put on the extravaganza of the sauce, but man is it appreciated. As I cooked it this first time by myself (and yes, I had to call Nonnie to ask several questions as I went), I realized that one thing I'll never be able to replicate exactly is the feeling of family I get when I eat it. I'm sure every family has some dish like this; you can taste a lazy afternoon, hanging out with cousins, getting underfoot trying to take a taste, aunts and uncles laughing and talking, and culminating in a meal where we're all crammed around the kitchen table, extra chairs brought in from the bedrooms, and you know you're growing up when you want to linger afterwards at the table to talk with the adults instead of making a beeline for the living room and the library of Disney movies that Nonnie has on hand.

The best I can hope to do is cook it with as much love as I know it was cooked for me in the past, and hope that my own little family can taste it.

As for the actual ingredients, here goes:

Meatballs (makes about 30)
8 slices dry bread
2lbs ground beef
4 eggs
1c grated parmesan cheese
2t salt
1/4c parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
Dash pepper

 Soak bread in water for two or three minutes, then squeeze out moisture.  Combine bread with beef and rest of ingredients.  (You do this with your bare hands, wearing all of your jewelry. This is how Nonnie always did it and it's an art form.) Form small balls.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake balls at 350 degrees for only 20 minutes. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce (makes 4qts)
½ medium onion (~1 1/2c)
Olive oil (enough to coat pan ~ 1/3c)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 #2 ½ cans (7c) tomatoes
4 6oz cans (2 2/3c) tomato paste
2c water (use the water to “wash” the tomato cans)
2T sugar
1T salt
1/2t pepper
1T crushed oregano
 2 bay leaves

Cook onion and garlic in hot oil till tender but not brown.  Sir in the next eight ingredients (you're going to need a big pot).  Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Add meat balls.  Continue cooking on low for another 2 hours.

What is missing from this original recipe are the following notes that were passed to me orally, and really, the dish isn't the same without them:
*Braise 2 bone-in pork chops (I used pork neck bones) and add to sauce with the meatballs.
*Add several Italian pork sausages (mostly cooked) to the sauce. 
*Add several hard-boiled eggs (peeled) to the sauce if you are serving that day. (If you haven't had spaghetti with hard-boiled eggs simmered in the sauce, YOU SHOULD.)
*Remove all meat and eggs prior to storing extra sauce (it freezes beautifully).

Be sure to have plenty of fresh Parmesan cheese on hand to dump liberally over the spaghetti, and enjoy as often as possible with good company. We recently fixed this dish at the One Acre Homestead across the street using a camp stove during the big ice storm, and then ate it by candlelight. It might have been the way we sort of improvised and gathered around the table together after a long, crazy day that really made it taste just right.


  1. 厚 !!!等了好久的更新~~一定要支持的啦(ΘωΘ)........................................

  2. Pork chops I can kinda understand, hard boiled eggs...not so much! But, who am I to dispute a family recipe?

  3. If I close my eyes and think real hard, I can still taste that sauce...mind blowing...I am going to have to try making some soon! Thanks for sharing!