Monday, April 16, 2012

Spaghetti, Meatballs, and Easy Tomato Sauce

My husband loves meatballs, so a week ago I made up a batch. Years ago I found a pretty good recipe in a Cuisine at Home magazine and adapted it to our low sodium lifestyle. One of the nice things about the recipe is that the meatballs are baked, so there’s no need to stand over a frying pan turning & turning the bundles of meat. Another nice thing is that the meatballs are baked in a layer of broth. After baking, the tasty broth can then be used to make a flavorful sauce. And, finally, the recipe makes a lot of meatballs – enough for several meals. This time around, I ended up with 24 meatballs. I froze half of them and used the other half for a couple of dinners and one lunch. (For what it’s worth, I mix the meatball ingredients with my hands after donning latex-free disposable gloves. I do the same for meatloaf and homemade sausage. Keeps my hands cleaner.)

My tomato sauce is pretty simple. I usually buy a big can of no-salt-added or low sodium whole tomatoes and run it through the blender a bit. I want some texture but not big chunks. I particularly like Cento brand crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. Cento doesn’t use citric acid or calcium chloride in the canning process, and, as a result, the tomatoes taste brighter and fresher even though they’re quite low in sodium. Trader Joe’s also sells no-salt-added whole tomatoes with basil and a salt free marinara sauce. Depending on what I can find, I may end up combining a can of salt free tomato sauce, with a can of low sodium crushed tomatoes, and a can of salt free diced tomatoes. I simply add some flavorings and I’m ready for spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, or whatever. This time I doubled the recipe, so I had plenty of sauce for plenty of good eating. I added half the baked meatballs and all the baking broth to the tomato sauce and let everything simmer together for about 30 minutes. The simmering tenderized the meatballs and also imparted some of the meaty flavorings to the sauce. I cooked the spaghetti in unsalted water and tossed it with a bit of olive oil and sauce before serving. A sprinkling of finely shredded Parmesan cheese topped it off. I reserved about half the sauce for pizza and lasagna for later use.  

Adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine
(Printable Recipe)

1 cup dry salt free/loso breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/3 cup whole milk (usually I sub NSA cottage cheese)
1/3 cup NSA beef broth
1/3 cup chopped parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water (optional)

2 lbs. ground meat (I use a combination of ground beef and pork)
1 cup NSA beef broth

Pre-heat oven to 425. Coat a rimmed baking sheet (like a jelly roll pan) with nonstick cooking spray or line with non-stick aluminum foil. Combine all ingredients except ground meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground meat and mix thoroughly. The mixture will be loose and very moist; it will firm up when baked. Shape meatballs. (I use my muffin/cookie scoop to make balls about 2 inches in diameter.) Space the meatballs on the pan so they’re not touching or crowded together. Cover the bottom of the pan with the 1 cup beef broth. Bake for 25 minutes or until the meatballs are just cooked through. Reserve the pan juices for sauce.

(Depending on the size of meatball you make, this recipe may yield 20-30 meatballs)

Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce
(Printable Recipe)

1 28-oz can salt-free/low sodium whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes (or combination)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Coarsely chopped fresh basil (optional)

If using whole or diced tomatoes, briefly run through blender. Saute onion in olive oil until translucent; add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, herbs, and lesser amount of sugar. Bring to simmer; lower heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Stir in fresh basil, if using.


Voce said...

At what temperature do you bake your meatballs? Mom always fried hers, but I didn't want the extra grease, so I bake mine at 400. Bottoms get too brown, though, if I want them fully cooked. (Which I do, as they're not always cooked in sauce, but sometimes taken from the freezer & simply heated.) But I bet the broth would eliminate that problem - I'm anxious to try it!

Lindy said...

Thanks so much for taking the time on this site to share all you have, it has helped me so so much !This looks delish!!

shambo said...

Voce, thanks for asking. I inadvertently left out the oven temperature. I've corrected it to read, "Pre-heat oven to 450." It seems like a high temperature, and it would be without the broth. You're right, the broth eliminates the problem with over browned and stuck meatballs. It also adds a built in flavorful stock for beef gravy. Or you can do what I did and throw the beef broth into a tomato sauce.

shambo said...

Lindy, the meatballs and sauce are pretty good tasting for low sodium fare. However, the meatball technique is the star. It makes fixing meatballs so easy. And you can change the meat's spices to make a Swedish style meatball. Then use the beef broth as a base for gravy with a bit of cream or sour cream added. It's a very versatile technique.

Jenny said...

I always enjoy your posts. I wear gloves when making meatballs, too. But I've yet to venture beyond the sesame meatballs I make for my boys- I will have to try this recipe.

shambo said...

Jenny, sesame meatballs sound pretty good to me. Is the recipe on your blog?

restaurant Fort Lauderdale said...

Wow, this sounds so delicious! I am so excited to try this out. The thing is, I so love this dish. Well, who does not? Everytime we celebrate an occasion, this is the first dish I dig into. It is just appetizing and very satisfying and very easy to prepare. Thank you for this recipe. I will surely have this a must-try!

shambo said...

Hope you enjoy the meatballs and sauce.

Renee J said...

How many servings does a single sauce recipe make?

shambo said...

Renee, I think you'd get between 4-6 servings of sauce depending on how much you ladle out. Some people like their pasta quite saucy, while others prefer it just lightly coated. Hope this helps.