Meatballs and Marinara Sauce

 

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Sometimes I have a plan for dinner and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I make sure I have all the ingredients on hand and if not, they get added to the grocery list. And then there are the occasions that despite having a plan in place, I run across a recipe that changes everything! I think that should be the rule for family meals and cooking in general – make a plan but be willing to shift.

I can’t tell you how many times I KNEW I had something in the pantry, something critical for a recipe, so I didn’t buy it when I bought everything else and then get home to find out I was wrong. Ugh, I hate that the worst. But at the same time, it does force me to be creative and come up with something new.

Last night I had all the ingredients for spaghetti on hand, ready to make dinner but then I ran across a recipe for baked meatballs with mozzarella. The picture was mouthwatering and the next thing you know, I was shifting gears and going in a new direction.

I decided to make my own version of this, using my own recipes. It’s legal, lol. Recipes are so great for inspiration but then you are free to make it however you like.

Making the meatballs only took about 15 minutes or so to get in the oven – then I was free to begin making the marinara sauce.

 

To assemble you will also need 8 oz shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup parmesan cheese.

Put half the marinara in a large ovenproof skillet.

Next, arrange the meatballs on top of the sauce, then pour the remaining marinara over the meatballs.

 

Bake @375 degrees for 15 or so minutes; it should be bubbling around the edges when ready.

Pull from the oven and sprinkle both of the cheeses on top and return back to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes more.

(While this was baking, I cooked some spaghetti for the meatballs to go over.)

Add some nice crusty French or Italian bread and maybe a small green salad and you will think you had gone out to a fancy Italian restaurant for dinner!

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When I make this again, I will most likely forgo the pasta and use either grilled eggplant or zucchini instead. YUM. Mix it up, change it around to suit your taste – it’s what makes cooking fun!

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(I couldn’t finish it!)

Meatballs:

2 lbs. Ground beef (I used 1 lb beef and 1 lb pork)

¼ cup finely chopped onions

1 finely chopped small bell pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ tsp dried oregano

1 ½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp red pepper flakes (Optional, to taste)

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; being careful to not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Shape into balls by hand or use a small cookie/ice cream scoop. You should have 25 or 30 meatballs.  Place on a greased or foil-lined baking pan, leaving a little bit of room between each. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning about halfway through. (Reduce the heat in the oven to 375 degrees when you take the meatballs out)

Meanwhile, make the marinara.

Marinara Sauce:

Large onion, diced

Large bell pepper, diced

8 oz Mushrooms, sliced

½ cup fresh basil chopped

¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (Optional)

1 tsp fennel seed

2 tsp dry oregano

2 15 oz cans petite diced tomatoes

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

½ small can tomato paste

Sauté the vegetables in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until onions are translucent and mushrooms have released their liquid. Add in the seasonings, fresh and dry and let simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring often.

Add in all the tomatoes, using the juice too. Combine it all together well and let simmer covered for about 15 to 20 minutes. (You can always make this ahead of time and let it simmer for as long as like really.)

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