I learn all sorts of meatball tricks on Joelen's blog. Previously with Swedish Meatballs recipe I learned that instead of pan frying your meatballs you can put them in a (mini-)cupcake pan and bake them. Now from this recipe I learned you can also just put your meatballs on a plate and nuke them. How amazing and easy is that?! I love tips and tricks that make your life easier and the thing I particularly love about Joelen's blog is that most recipes have make-ahead tips so they're perfect for new parents and folks with busy lives.
These meatballs were cheesy as promised and a definite crowd pleaser! Everyone knows that marinara sauce freezes perfectly, too.
Cheesy Italian Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped fine
- 2/3 cup tomato paste (equivalent to one 6 oz can.)
- 8 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- Minced fresh Italian parsley for garnish
- Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, 6 garlic cloves, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until golden, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl; set aside. Add wine to pot with remaining onion mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to slow cooker.
- Add 1/2 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, sausage, eggs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining garlic to bowl with reserved onion mixture. Mash with potato masher until smooth. Add beef and cream to bowl and knead with hands until well combined. Form mixture into twelve 2-inch meatballs.
- Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes. Nestle meatballs in slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.
* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare the directions as noted above for sauce however allow the sauce cool and set aside. Prepare the directions as noted above for the meatballs however nestle meatballs in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish discarding rendered fat; allow to cool. Alternately, you can cool the meatballs and place in a gallon sized freezer bag. Cover the meatballs with the cooled sauce (either in the baking dish or freezer bag). Cover/seal and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost.
If making in the oven - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking dish with foil and place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.
If making in the slow cooker/crockpot - Place contents of freezer bag in a slowcooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta and garnish with minced parsley if desired.
Source: Originally from Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country as adapted by and seen on What's Cookin, Chicago and The Piggly Wiggly