CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Meatballs and Sunday Marinara

Sunday dinner has always been something special for a lot of people or at least there was a time when it was.

That’s because Sunday traditionally has been the day of the week when you could count on everyone in the family getting together to sit down and share a meal.

And in these busy times when both parents usually work, sometimes different hours, and weekdays don’t afford an opportunity, Sunday dinner is even more important.

Sunday is the day when we as a family have a chance to sit down together and eat, since our daughter, Amy, usually is working over the supper hour weekdays and Saturday. In her job as a hair stylist, that’s the only time a lot of working women and men have a chance to get their hair done.

A favorite Sunday dinner of ours is spaghetti, meatballs and marinara sauce. While a meat/marinara sauce is the preference of a lot of pasta lovers, we like meatballs with a meatless tomato sauce. That’s because doing it this way, you can eat as much sauce as you like while cutting down on the meat.

For my meatballs, I like to mix ground bison and pork with eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, minced onion, garlic and milk. And to give it a little bit of Mediterranean taste, I add fennel seeds that have been crushed with my mortar and pestle and Italian-seasoned bread crumbs.

That’s what I call a special Sunday meal.

Bison and Pork Meatballs
1½ pounds ground bison
1 pound of ground pork
2 cups Italian-flavored bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped very fine
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts) (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Let stand ½ hour. Shape into medium-size meatballs. Fry gently in olive oil until lightly browned, or place on foil on a cookie sheet and bake for ½ hour at 350 degrees. Gently place in marinara sauce (recipe follows) and cook on medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Sunday Marinara Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans ready-cut peeled tomatoes or 5 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
10 fresh basil leaves
Grated cheese
In a deep 10-inch frying pan, heat the olive oil and gently saute the garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and sun dried tomatoes.
Put on medium for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Tear basil leaves into small pieces and sprinkle on top after adding to pasta. Add pepper and grated cheese top taste.
Notes: This sauce is great with fish, scallops, shrimp, or boiled chicken, etc. If fresh tomatoes are used, put them in a pot of boiling water for about 10 seconds until the skin can be easily peeled off. Discard skin. Cut tomatoes into pieces and add to frying-pan mixture. Add tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes.
Yield: Makes about 2 quarts.

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