Meatballs & Sauce

Sometimes, even though I have absolutely no Italian blood in me, I feel a need to fly the Italian flag. So I put on a wife-beater, tuft up my back/shoulder hair, put on a little Sinatra, and make some sauce and meatballs. And because I have no Italian blood, I it gravy. Because that's just stupid. 

So I put this together to take you through my process* of making good sauce and meatballs. 
(* Wife beater and back hair optional)


The main ingredients you'll need:
- 3 pounds of ground meat (beef/pork/veal mix)
- 1 large yellow onion (seperated)
- 1 bunch of fresh basil (seperated)
- Grated cheese (pref. Pecorino Romano)
- Garlic (a shitload, if available)
- Italian Bread
- Milk
- 1 Egg
- Pork chops w/ bone (and/or sausage)
- 1 28 oz. can of tomato puree
- 2 28 oz. cans of peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 8 oz. can of tomato paste
- Mushrooms (Optional)
- Oregano
- Crushed red pepper
- Sugar
- Salt / Pepper / Olive Oil
(Even though it's in the picture, I wouldn't recommend Ibuprofen)

  Preparing the Meatball Mixture:
* Chop the entire onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic
* Chop all of the basil
* Add 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil to a frying pan
* Add the garlic along with half of the onion and half of the basil  (the other half of both will be used for the sauce)
* Saute the mixture extremely slowly. Slow and low. If you burn the've ruined everything. Be patient. Cook until the onions are translucent. Probably 12-15 minutes. The mixture should look like this.

As the onions/garlic/basil are sauteing, cut 4-5 slices of italian bread and place in a bowl and cover with milk. (TIP #1: Breadcrumbs are for suckers. Meatballs with breadcrumbs is like watching Goodfellas on TBS....a waste of time and in a way, insulting). Once the bread has soaked through, squeeze about half of the volume from each slice and add into a large bowl along with the meat. 

Once the onion/garlic/basic mixture is done, add it to the bowl with the 3 lbs of meat, the milk-soaked bread, the egg, and 1/2 cup of grated cheese, and add salt & pepper generously.

This is also a good time to start drinking wine!

Prepare to get dirty. It's time to put your hands in the meat and mix it all together. You may find that the crust of the bread is a little tough - so you may have to sort of tear it up in your fingers as you knead the ingredients together.

Once it's all sufficiently mixed (which should take about 5 minutes) it should look like this.  Let the mixture sit for 25-30 minutes.  While the meat mixture sits, now is the time to start the sauce..

In a large pot, start to saute another batch of the onion/garlic/basil mixture. Again, slow and low so as to not burn the garlic. This mix includes the other half of the chopped onion, another 4 cloves of garlic, and the rest of the chopped basil in a couple 'glugs' of olive oil. (You can also include chopped mushrooms at this stage. I prefer mushrooms in my sauce...but I forgot to buy them. Wanna make something of it?!)

Once the onions are translucent, add the can of tomato paste, then fill the can with water and add to the pot. This is going to basically form a rue for the sauce, Stir until the paste is broken up and distributed evenly. Now add the can of tomato puree. At this point, add the cans of peeled tomatoes to a blender (you can get chopped or crushed tomatoes...but I think the whole tomatoes have more flavor). Blend them quickly, just enough to break them up, add add them to the sauce.

Now add half a can of water for each of the 28 oz. cans of tomatoes (so three 28 oz. cans = 1.5 cans of water). Keeping the heat low, stir this all together and prepare to let it cook for another 3 hours.

Finally sprinkle in a generous amount of oregano and 1-2 Tbsp of sugar (and if you like a little kick to your sauce like I do - add some red pepper flakes to taste).

Let's get back to that meat mixture. By the time you've prepared the sauce, it will be time to start cooking the meatballs.

Add an unhealthy amount of oil to a frying pan on medium to high heat. Choose whatever size meatballs you like. I prefer them to be bigger than a golf ball...smaller than a softball. Begin cooking them in batches. They will brown quickly. You're not cooking them through, just browning them. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

As you finish each batch, place them on a paper towel and move on to the next batch.

The mixture made 19 total balls...which is like an entire baseball team, plus Lance Armstrong. 
Get it?  That's a ball joke.

TIP #2: Whatever you do, do not forget to keep drinking wine. As I was doing this I kept the Chianti flowing...but was pissed that my XM/Sirius radio wasn't playing any Sinatra. They have a goddamn station called Simply Sinatra...THAT DIDN'T PLAY SINATRA FOR OVER AN HOUR!!! So These meatballs were made listening to Metallica. Just like in the old country.

Next step. In the same frying pan, add the pork chops. Again, you don't have to cook through, just brown them on both sides.

Once you've done this, add them immediately to the simmering sauce. They will add an amazing amount of flavor by cooking in the sauce over the next couple hours.

You're not done with that pan of drippings. Oh no. That pan is full of flavor. Get out a decent bottle of wine and pour yourself another glass. And as long as it's out, add about 1/2 cup to the hot pan. This will bubble and steam immediately and smell like a nose orgasm....which may sound gross, but it's actually wonderful. You can use either red or white wine. And the old rule is, you shouldn't use wine that you wouldn't drink. This is an obsolete rule for me because I will drink most anything. What they mean is...use decent wine. Don't skimp. Cooking wine (like breadcrumbs) is for suckers.

Let it reduce and have the alcohol cook off. You'll be able to tell by its smell when there are no more alcohol vapors. This method not only adds flavor, but it helps to get all the sticky stuff off the bottom of the pan and it makes cleaning the pan much easier. Add the reduction to the sauce.

Remember those meatballs?
I like to let the meatballs sit for about an hour or so after they've cooked to allow them to congeal and solidify. If you add them to the sauce too soon, they may break up and turn your sauce into an inadvertent Bolognese.

So now, the sauce has been simmering for about 60-75 mins. The pork chops have been in there for a good 45 mins or so. If you taste the sauce at this point it will taste good...but it's not entirely whole. There is a sort of empty after taste. Know why? Because, if you've followed all of these steps - you're probably drunk and your senses are starting to weaken. And because you haven't added the oily, fatty, meaty goodness of the meatballs you've slaved over. It's time to add them to the sauce.

Before you do - Give the sauce a good stir for a couple minutes because you won't be touching it again for awhile. I don't like to stir too much once I've added the meatballs for fear of them breaking up.

This is what your sauce should look like once all of the ingredients are in the pot. Let's just pause and look at it. Goddamn....just look at it. If I only had more hair on my chin, I could be a certified Italian woman.

At this point I like to cover the pot and walk away for about an hour. At which point I pour another glass of wine.

After an hour, come back to the pot and look what those wonderful meatballs have done. You'll see little pools of fat and oil on the surface of the sauce. If you want to skim this oil off of the top and discard it, the best way to do so is to take the heaviest spoon you can find and slap yourself in the face with it repeatedly. LEAVE THE OIL -- WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?! That's the flavor dummy.

Give the sauce another careful stir, making sure not to break up the meatballs. Once you've done this take a taste. Go ahead.....

RIGHT!?!?!?!? Son of a bitch....right?!?!
You may be tempted to take your clothes off and jump in the pot at this point. I would discourage this...but hey, you're an adult. Do what you want.

At this point keep the pot uncovered and simmer for another hour.

You will know the sauce is done when the meat falls off of the pork chop bone. This is an oddly gratifying stage. When you see a bone so easily and cleanly pull away from the meat, it gives you that feeling like: "I've accomplished something wonderful today. I'm a good person. I'm a good cook. And you know what -- I'm drunk".  And that will be one of the most tender and flavorful pork chops you've ever eaten.

The finished product. I like to use rigatoni with the textured sides because it really holds the sauce well.

And that's it. You've made sauce. And meatballs. And finished a bottle of wine.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I hope you all enjoy my balls.

I would just like to point out that this is my kitchen immediately after preparing a bowl of pasta for myself. You'll notice it's immaculate. Do you know why? There is a lot of down time in between the many stages of sauce and meatball making. Time that can be spent cleaning your cooking area. Some people (I think you know who I'm talking about Lindsey) like to pile dishes in the sink and wait for the bubble fairy to come and magically clean them. I choose to wash as I go because I'm a caring and giving person.

Bon Appetit