Italian meatballs in homemade tomato sauce.

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

As promised, I’m sharing the next recipe in my meatball series:  Italian meatballs in homemade tomato sauce!


These are the Castelli Family meatballs I shared last week, simmered in a red wine tomato sauce.  This is my Mom’s sauce recipe, inspired by the sauce her mother, my Nonna, used to make.  As a warning, it makes a lot: I had plenty to serve with meatballs and pasta for 6 people on New Year’s Day, plus leftovers that lasted a week, plus three small containers in the freezer for later.  I definitely recommend freezing the sauce in small containers (as opposed to one large container) that you can defrost and use as you need it — makes for some easy dinner nights!Image

With these cold temperatures, I find a large stockpot of this sauce simmering on the stove so comforting.  It doesn’t hurt that it smells divine, either.


Italian Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

Recipe from Barbara Doyle (my mom!)

What you need:

  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried celery flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with herbs
  • 1 28-ounce can of chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 2 28-ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 28-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • Cooked Italian meatballs

Note:  I used the Dei Fratelli brand of canned tomato products.  Hunts is a good alternative.

What to do:

Finely chop your celery and onion, and mince your garlic.

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) over medium heat.  Add the celery, onion, and garlic, and cook until the celery and onion are very soft or becoming translucent.  Then, add a teaspoon each of the crushed red pepper, dried celery flakes, italian seasoning, and dried parsley.  If you do not have Italian seasoning, add a blend of dried basil and oregano.  Mix in the spices well.

Now, add all of your canned tomatoes except the tomato paste.  To recap, that’s 2 cans crushed, 1 can chopped, 2 cans sauce, and 1 can of puree.  Stir well, then bring the mixture to a low boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, add the can of tomato paste.  Stir well.

Add 3/4 cup of red wine–this can be a drinking wine or a cooking wine.  Then add your cooked meatballs and let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 1 hour, at least.  The more time you allot for the meatballs to simmer before serving, the more tender they will be, and the more infused with the flavor of the sauce.


This sauce can be used in an accompanying baked pasta dish, such as stuffed shells or manicotti.  It is also delicious over spaghetti.Image

As my Nonna used to say:  Mangia, mangia!


Castelli Family Meatballs.

January 1, 2014 § 5 Comments

Happy 2014!  What a whirlwind week.  The holidays went by so quickly, as they always do!  I spent nearly a week in Columbus with my family, which was really nice.  And…I got engaged!  My boyfriend, Ty, proposed to me after we went out to dinner for our 2 year anniversary.  He totally surprised me by driving to Sage’s Apple Farm in Chardon, where we met in August 2011.  It’s still sinking in, but I am thrilled.  eeee!

Now… let’s talk about food.  Italian food.  Specifically: meatballs!

I have a small series of Italian-centric posts for you over the next week, starting with this staple recipe:  Castelli Family Meatballs!  This recipe has been in my extended Italian family for a long time.  Whenever I have the urge to make this recipe, I usually double it and roll a variety of sizes–large to eat with pasta, small to eat in soup, etc.  They freeze really well.

This recipe calls for a 2.5 pound mixture of meat–equal parts ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork.  Basically, just shy of a pound of each.  I used Italian pork sausage in place of ground pork.  It also calls for 1 onion, minced–feel free to substitute a tablespoon or so of dry minced onion if you feel weird about pieces of cooked onion in the meat mixture. It may look weird but I promise you it tastes delicious!

Let’s get started, shall we?

What you need:

  • A very large mixing bowl
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds of meat mix: equal parts ground beef, veal, and pork (or Italian pork sausage)
  • 2 cups of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 C fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

What to do:

Basically?  This is all about putting a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and mixing them up!  Easy!


Start by adding your ground beef, veal, and pork to the bowl, and mix the meat well, until blended.  Then add the minced onions, chopped garlic, grated cheese, chopped parsley, eggs, milk, and bread crumbs!


I added the breadcrumbs last.


Once the meatball mixture is totally ready, it needs to rest for a half hour (or more) in the fridge.


After the meatball mixture has rested, it’s time to shape the meatballs.

Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with foil.  Spray the foil with Pam or other nonstick baking spray.  This really helps prevent the meatballs from sticking to the foil.


Use an ice cream scooper or your hands to roll the balls.


I did a tray of larger balls, and a tray of smaller ones to freeze for soups.


Bake the meatballs at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


These are the baked meatballs fresh from the oven.   For New Year’s Day dinner, I simmered these meatballs in homemade tomato sauce–my Mom’s recipe!  That’s coming up next.

Happy 2014!  Let’s eat!

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