It's hard to resist a good excuse to feast on meatballs, but here is a solid alibi: National Meatball Day. March 9 is set aside as a festive way to celebrate those popular rolled pockets of protein.
There are meatballs, and then there are meatballs. This requested recipe hits the delicate balance of lean ground beef and mild Italian sausage. Neither overpowers the other.
Given their price per pound, meatballs go a tasty distance in serving a small crowd. Layered between a split baguette and sliced cheese for subs, plated as a popular hors d'oeuvre or served with a pound of your favorite cooked pasta, meatballs are often unrecognized for their versatility. You can cut the meatballs in half after they are cooked for a smaller bite or slice into thirds for meatball sandwiches. Meatballs also freeze well for another day.
This red sauce has a hint of sweet with a lot of savory. The secret is in the simple step of deglazing all those small bits of flavor after the meatballs are fried. Mama Mia Meatballs are finished by simmering while you set the table and gather your family for mealtime.
MAMA MIA MEATBALLS AND SAVORY RED SAUCE
¾ pound lean ground beef (90 percent)
½ pound mild Italian sausage
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (plain)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dry parsley, crushed
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup milk (2 percent or whole)
2 large eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
2 tablespoons flour
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) peeled, diced tomatoes in juice
2-3 tablespoons minced parsley
6 tablespoons or 1 medium green bell pepper, minced
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 small bay leaves
For meatballs: In a large bowl, prepare meatballs with all listed ingredients except the olive oil. Mix together and form into golf-ball size rounds. Try to keep the size and shape as uniform as possible. Rolling by hand works best. You should have 22-24 meatballs.
Flatten the tops of each meatball slightly using a teaspoon to indent. Pan fry in olive oil on medium-low, turning once or twice until brown. The meatballs should cook quickly, about 15 minutes. You can test by cutting into one meatball partially. You don't want to see pink.
Red sauce: Once the meatballs are cooked, remove from frying pan. In the empty pan, whisk flour in the remaining olive oil to begin the deglazing process.
Add in crushed and diced tomatoes, parsley, green pepper, salt and pepper. Also add in sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and finish deglazing the bottom of the pan. Return cooked meatballs back into frying pan. Stir and cover meatballs with sauce. Add in bay leaves and cover with lid. Reduce heat to the very lowest setting to simmer 50-60 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Creates 6 generous servings.
— Recipe adapted from "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook," by Shannon M. Smurthwaite