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Genius Recipes – Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

It’s been unusually busy around here again with Christmas shopping and all.  This weekend we got a Frozen themed gingerbread house / ice palace and we rearranged the living room to make a play around for my daughter behind the couch with her little kitchen, table and chairs, and butterfly couch. The tree was moved to the far side of the living room so everything looks neater and cozier now. I figured a fitting comfort food would be these meatballs. Food52 has featured them as a “genius recipe” and suggested Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (also a “genius recipe”) so I went for it. Sooo happy I did! The sauce is unique and delicious! It’s like the perfect balance of tomato flavour with the sweetness of onion, and the creaminess of butter. I only added half the meatball recipe so if you’re using all of them I’d suggest doubling the sauce. For the meatballs I substituted all pork instead of the veal and it turned out very well. Searing the meatballs in oil creates a crunchy, tasty exterior, and a juicy, tender interior. We ate a few before putting them in the sauce and they’re so addictive! Steve ate so much at dinner he felt ill! lol This one’s going in the All-Star file. 🙂

Notes from Food52: 1. Make your own fresh breadcrumbs (i.e. grind up some stale bread) or, if your crumbs are purchased and quite fine, cut back by half, and don’t use quite as much water. (I only used about 1/2 cup using soft fresh bread for the crumbs) 2. Use local, pastured, not very lean meats if at all possible.


Rao’s Meatballs

Makes 28 meatballs

  • pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • large eggs
  • cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • cups fresh bread crumbs
  • cups lukewarm water
  • cup good quality olive oil, for cooking
  • Your favorite marinara sauce (we like Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, also on Food52)
  1. Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, blend ingredients together. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add water, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture is quite moist. Shape into 2 1/2 to 3-inch balls.
  2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan. When oil is very hot but not smoking, fry meatballs in batches. When the bottom half of the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp, turn and cook top half. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
  3. Lower cooked meatballs into simmering marinara sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Serve alone or with pasta.


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Serves 6, enough to sauce 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta

For the Sauce

  • pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes cut up, with their juice
  • tablespoons butter
  • medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste
  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Before tossing with pasta, you may remove the onion (as Hazan recommended) and save for another use, but many opt to leave it in. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.

For detailed instructions on preparing fresh tomatoes, visit



About heathershomemade

Cupcake obsessed foodie from Ottawa, ON, Canada

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