It's winter, and meals like these are super comforting. I typically don't make meatballs too often, but was feeling like it for some reason this week. I was considering the ingredients and process as I meal planned, and was really excited when I sat down to eat this last night.
This delightful vegetable sauce pairs extremely well with the pork-free, gluten-free meatballs. The sauce is rich in flavor, sweet, tangy, and deep. The meatballs are a simple combination of ground meat, with a tender texture and subtle herb flavor. Be sure to garnish with parmesan and lemon zest, with a sprinkle of basil. It makes the dish complete— and perfect.
We haven't been eating pork for a few months now, so I've used chicken sausage with ground beef for this recipe. The combination created the same flavors I was seeking, but whatever your preference, both will still work great. I just use an egg as the binding agent, and nix the crumb component completely. Along with the ingredients, the process is really important too. Partially frying the meatballs before adding them into the sauce, really helps to sear in the moisture and tenderness of the meatball, while giving it a nice exterior texture.
The sauce contains red wine, and a healthy dose of vegetables. I love the taste of the slowly simmered veg, it may have been my favorite part. Tasting this sauce for the first time knocked my socks off. Don't be afraid to taste it though, just to make sure it's hitting the spot for you too. For the noodles, I used brown rice spaghetti noodles, which have a great texture.
All around, this is a great meal that I highly suggest trying out. Definitely doing this meal again, and since I was so swayed, I just had to share it with you too. I hope you enjoy!
Meatballs and Veg Sauce
Time: 1 hr 20 min Serves: 4-5
Cook's note: If you have the time to let the sauce simmer for awhile, feel free to do so. It gets more amazing with the longer it can simmer. Stir it occasionally, to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom.
1, 24 oz jar of tomato sauce, I used a garlic flavored one
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini, cubed
1/2 cup mushrooms, quartered
1/3 cup red wine, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon
1 package, or about .75 lbs, chicken Italian sausage
1 package, or about 1-1.5 lbs, ground beef, preferably organic
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tbsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sage, dried
1/4 tsp rosemary, dried
1/3 cup olive oil (for frying)
1 package spaghetti noodles, I used brown rice pasta, follow package instructions to cook. Set aside with a bit of drizzled olive oil to prevent them sticking too much together.
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
fresh basil for topping
In a large sauté pan with about 4-5 inch depth, add all sauce ingredients. Heat over medium, to medium-low heat. Stir to incorporate, and cover with a lid. Let sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, and again right before adding meatballs.
For meatballs, combine all ingredients. Mix with a metal spoon until ingredients are well incorporated. Form meatballs with your hands to about 1/4 cup each. Set on a plate.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan, over medium heat. Don't allow the oil to smoke, it may take a couple minutes until the oil is hot enough. Add about half of the formed meatballs to the hot oil. Fry in two batches so that they don't touch while cooking. Be careful to not burn yourself. Let meatballs brown on one side without being disturbed, for about five minutes. Using tongs, gently flip over to the other side. Let them cook for about two minutes.
Using tongs, gently add browned meatballs into the sauce pan, evenly distributing them. Turn heat down to low. Cover with a lid, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes up to an hour. Taste sauce, adjust seasoning if needed.
To plate, use tongs to swirl the spaghetti onto the plate. Scoop sauce and meatballs over spaghetti, using care to cover the noodles. Generously dust each plate with parmesan cheese, and a pinch of lemon zest. Tear basil into smaller pieces and sprinkle over dish. Enjoy!
More Meal Planning Inspiration:
In the mood for more Italian-inspired meals?
My Black Olive Vinaigrette is a great accompaniment to an entrée.
Try this hearty Italian soup, Ribollita.
And for dessert, try my Quick Cannoli with Cream Cheese Filling.