Monday, September 19, 2022


It is sometimes difficult to find a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in Italian-American restaurants. Usually, the sauce (gravy) is too acidic and the meatballs are gray in color. I make Big Mamma's Sunday Gravy once or twice a year with Italian sausages, meatballs, ribs, and occasionally braciole. It simmers on the stove for 5 hours, but this recipe is much faster and lighter. If I had an Italian restaurant, this would definitely be on the menu. 

½ cup plain bread crumbs or 3 slices white bread, day old, processed in a food processor
3 T milk
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal (optional, but add more ground beef)
2 large egg 
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup minced Italian parsley
1 t granulated garlic
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the milk and stir to combine.
Set the mixture aside until the crumbs have absorbed the milk.
Add the remaining ingredients, and with dampened hands, shape into 1 ½-inch balls.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat a little extra-light olive oil until hot, but not smoking.
Adjust heat to medium-low and slowly fry the meatballs in batches until brown on all sides.
Do not attempt to turn the meatballs until they are thoroughly brown on one side and easily release from the bottom of the pan. Be patient with this step or you will have odd-shaped meatballs.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl and set aside while frying the rest.

“Quick Sunday Gravy”
3 (28 oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 T extra-virgin olive oil (for slowly cooking the onions & garlic)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press or minced
½ cup dry red wine
1 (24 oz) can tomato sauce
½ t red pepper flakes
1 T granulated sugar (optional)
1 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores.
Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

In the same large heavy pot or Dutch oven, pour out some of the excess fat (but not the brown particles) and add the extra-virgin olive oil.
Over medium-low heat, sauté the onion for 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to sauté another minute.
Add the wine and simmer a few seconds.
Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot and scrape up any browned particles from the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and basil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Partially cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add the meatballs and simmer, partially covered another 45 minutes, gently stirring occasionally.

Boil the spaghetti in salted water for 7 to 8 minutes, until al dente.
Drain well, then add the spaghetti back into the pot.
Mix in some of the sauce to color the spaghetti and serve with a little more sauce, some meatballs, and grated cheese.

Serves 4

* You should have 28 to 32 meatballs with extra sauce for for one or two more meals.

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