A Southern Grace: comfort food?

July 7, 2014

comfort food?


I might be wrong, but I suspect that a lot of Americans (and perhaps Italians) consider spaghetti and meatballs to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. It was never on my list, though, and I can only assume that's because we didn't eat it when I was growing up.

We had plenty of lasagna and spaghetti with meat sauce, of course--the latter is, to this day, one of my brother's favorite foods in the world. We also had plain ol' meatballs quite often. We just never actually had balls of meat covered with tomato sauce served on top of pasta.

Because of my inexperience with spaghetti and meatballs, I had to do some serious research when my boyfriend requested that we have it for dinner one night. I found lots of good recipes and ultimately did some Dr Frankenstein work on them to create my own idea of the tastiest dish.

How'd I do? Well, the meatballs are moist but hold together well, and there's some zip from Worcestershire sauce shining through. The sauce is perfectly tomato-ed and sweet, though my one complaint about the entire creation was that it just wasn't saucy enough. It got rave reviews from the expert, though, and I was pretty pleased myself. I guess I might have to add spaghetti and meatballs to my list of comfort foods.

Squiggles and Meat Spheres
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sprinkling of nutmeg
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces crushes tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more if necessary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Combine the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix well, using your hands if necessary.
Form the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball, placing them on a sheet pan as you go. You should get 20 or so.
Put the sheet pan full of meatballs into the freezer for 15-30 minutes, just to ensure that they stay together when you sear and cook them.
To brown the meatballs, heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.
In the same pot, add the chopped onions and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes, or until onions are translucent.
Pour in crushed tomatoes and water. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and garlic powder; stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
Add meatballs to pot and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer. Add more water if you feel the sauce is too dry.
Just before serving, stir in basil if using.
Serve over cooked spaghetti and sprinkle with extra Parmesan.


~~louise~~ said...

Hi Grace,
Dare I say, Spaghetti and Meatballs hasn't been on my list of comfort foods for a very long time. Growing up in an Italian house, that's all we ever ate! As a matter of fact, when I was doing that post for Fried Chicken Day, I realized that as a kid I never, ever, ever had fried chicken nor lots of other foods. If it wasn't considered Italian by my father, we just didn't eat it!

I think you did a great job with your Squiggles and Meat Spheres. The only suggestion I would make is flat Italian parsley in the meatballs. It's just my personal preference. It adds a nice dimension especially when you fry the meatballs first. When we made sauce we usually fried some meatballs and added some unfried meatballs to the sauce. However, sauce at our house usually took days to make!!!

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Grace. You did GREAT and I'm sure it was mighty tasty too...

P.S. I have a feeling you make a "mean" fried chicken. I actually made fried chicken for that post but, Marion dug in before I had a chance to take pictures which really didn't matter because let's just say it was more like blackened chicken anyway, lol...

Sue/the view from great island said...

We're on the same comfort food page today, Grace. I love nothing more than a nice plate of pasta after a few weeks of salads and other light summery foods. And, adding Worcestershire sauce to your meatballs? Brilliant!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A comforting dish for me too... I love spaghetti and meatballs.



Angie's Recipes said...

A bowl of comfort! I miss carbs...

Marjie said...

My kids and husband love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs, so I cook it every week or so. Yours looks really good.

Alicia Foodycat said...

It's not something I grew up with either! I love it, but for me spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce, and lots of grated cheese, will forever be my comfort dish.

vanillasugarblog said...

We will always eat massive amounts of spaghetti & meatballs in the summer. Even when it's really hot outside. In fact, thurs night this week will be spaghetti night.

Jenn said...

Please come up to VA and make this for us. There are 6 kids here who would gobble it up (not to mention the adults). While the sauce simmers we can chill by the pool with your choice of adult beverage. No boyfriend/brother necessary. ��

Juliana said...

This is my kind of comfort food...the meatballs sound and look delicious...yum!
Have a wonderful week Grace :D

Ally said...

Mmm, that looks so good. I love spaghetti and meatballs...and even better, meatball sandwichs the next day.

Have you ever tried making it with half ground beef and half ground pork (not sure if you eat pork)? The ground beef gives it some heft and the fat from the pork gives it a deeper flavor.

Katerina said...

This is truly a comfort, family meal!

Mae Travels said...

Another good ingredient in the meatball mixture is dried onion flakes. They add flavor but don't mess with the stick-togetherness. I think there are more tomato sauce recipes than there are cooks for this classsic comfort food.

Mae Travels said...

Another possibility: line the cookie sheet with lightly greased foil before placing the meatballs on it, and then bake the meat balls at 450 to 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Much easier than in a frying pan! The foil really saves clean-up.

Caroline Taylor said...

Everyone has their own way of making meatballs, it's not something I eat very often though. You've reminded me to give them another go!

Leslie Anne Tarabella said...

I love spaghetti and meatballs, but can you believe my children don't like it? Who doesn't like spaghetti??? I don't know where I went wrong with these kids.

plasterers bristol said...

this sounds really good, and something new to try, thanks for sharing this recipe.


lisa is cooking said...

This dish is definitely on my comfort food list, but I don't make it often enough! Time to change that.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm totally unable to resist meatballs in any shape or form! These look incredible. I'd definitely forgo any diet for these! :D

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

These meatballs look utterly incredible! As far as comfort food goes, it does not get better than this :D

Choc Chip Uru

scrambledhenfruit said...

I didn't grow up eating spaghetti and meatballs either, but I sure do love them now! These squiggles and meat spheres look great. :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Any pasta dish is pure comfort food to me. But then again, I do love my carbs. ;)

Barbara said...

I don't know why, but my mother didn't serve spaghetti and meat balls to us either. She made some kind of spaghetti casserole, but that was it.
(Heard recently that the best hamburgers and meat balls contain some ground short rib meat along with the ground beef. haven't tried it yet)
Anyway...this looks yummy, Grace.
And a rhubarb cookbook is a great idea!

I Wilkerson said...

I would probably need something with more fat (pasta with some type of cream sauce?) to call it a comfort food myself. I actually use spaghetti as a health food--pared with a salad, you already have two servings of veggies.

Pam said...

My kind of comfort food. I bet the zing from the worcestershire sauce makes these meatballs extra special.

pam said...

Definitely my kind of comfort food. Though growing up, I don't think we ever had it.

Erica said...

We all love pasta with meatballs here. My husband is half Italian and He loves this dish.

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies said...

Funny, but now that I think about it, I don't think my mom made spaghetti and meatballs when I was growing up either. Meatballs were always in a cream of mushroom gravy.
Lovin' your meatball method and definitely going to try freezing them before browning!

Emily said...

I never really liked spaghetti and meatballs when I was growing up. I think it sounds really good now though! Yours look delicious!