Sometimes we need to be transferred back to happy times. Happy food times, to be precise. Close your eyes for a moment and think about happy food times from your childhood.
Spaghetti and meatballs made my top three “childhood food memories” after I met Viana and had her killer homemade meatballs for the first time. Yes, I was an adult by this time, but just let me file it under “childhood food memories” anyway….
And don’t even ask, she won’t give away her meatball recipe (yet). Only her daughter has it.
🍝 Why we love spaghetti and meatballs
Why are spaghetti and meatballs such a childhood favorite? I’d think it’s a childhood nightmare. Just imagine, you're hungry, you’re called to the table, and you sit down. A fantastic smelling plate is placed under your nose. You can’t wait to dig in. But wait what?! How in the world are you supposed to put 10-inch strands of floppy pasta somehow gracefully into your mouth? You were already taught to eat with your mouth closed and certainly no slurping allowed at the table. And keep that shirt clean.
Mission impossible. Hopefully, one of the adults saw your confusion, took pity on you, and cut the spaghetti into forkable pieces. And that’s fine if you’re 5 years old. But what about when you’re a teenager? A fork and a quiet, slow slurp go a long way. The mouth stays closed and the shirt stays clean. It works and that’s the way the Italians do it. And they know better.
But in the meantime, we’ve morphed into respectable adults (sure…), have some friends over (the ones that always bring that fancy red wine with flint on the nose and some berries in the legs with a little bit of Cuban cigar on the finish), and we want to serve some spaghetti and meatballs. Easy. Replace spaghetti with a more fork-friendly pasta. Like orecchiette (little ears) or similar. They also do a really good job of scooping up a nice amount of sauce each time. I call them orecchiette intasate (clogged ears) 😁
🔪 How to make sausage meatballs in seconds
Here’s a fun little tutorial about making 24 meatballs in 60 seconds or less:
- Start the clock
- Make a shallow cut in the sausage skin and remove it from the (uncooked) mild Italian sausage
- Cut into four pieces each
- Shape each piece into a meatball, using the palms of your hands
Stop the clock. You’ll end up with an even number of meatballs. No more “why does Johnny have one more meatball than I do” whining.
In this recipe, I used mild Italian sausage. You can use hot Italian sausage or mix them or use a different sausage all together. Just make sure you’re using uncooked sausage meat.
👨🏻🍳 Pantry tomato sauce recipe and a “secret” ingredient
A good Italian pantry tomato sauce needs a can of plum tomatoes, tomato paste, butter, and onions. That’s it. But I like to add three more items: oregano (fresh or dried), some minced garlic, and, to bring out the umami from the tomato paste even more, some anchovy paste. My “secret” ingredient. As you know from reading my recipes, it’s not quite a secret, I often use anchovies or anchovy paste in my sauces, stews, etc.
🍲 How to make this sausage meatballs with pasta dish
In a large pan or skillet or Dutch oven (for most dishes it’s not important to have the exact special pan described in a recipe...use the one that fits the amount of food you’re going to cook), heat about one tablespoon of vegetable oil until it sizzles.
Add meatballs and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to get all sides. How many sides does a meatball have? Just stir so that they’re nicely browned all around.
Then remove the meatballs and set aside. It’s okay if they’re not fully cooked through at this point. They’ll cook through later when being put back in with the sauce.
Add the butter to the same pan and stir in the onion. If there are any meatball bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan, great, scrape them off with a wooden spoon.
Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cook onions for about 5 minutes. They’ll soften up and release a beautiful aroma.
Next, add minced garlic, tomato paste, anchovy paste (if using), and oregano. Stir well for 2 minutes. Notice how the smell starts to pick up in complexities. See if your nose can pick up the different ingredients you’re cooking right now. I believe a good result in flavors on your palate is already taking place in your nose while cooking.
Pay attention to how the food you’re cooking is changing texture and smells. This is much more important than looking at your watch and counting the seconds to reach the two minutes or whatever is mentioned in the recipe. How does the recipe author know how hot your oil is and what kind of cooking equipment you are using? Exactly.
Unless you’re baking and/or using a few other cooking techniques, cook with your senses and not with your watch. And this “not using a watch” advice is coming from a Swiss citizen. Maybe that’s why I’m also an American citizen by now 😂
Anyway, let’s get back to cooking. Add the can of tomatoes, 3 cups of beef stock (I use Knorr bouillon cubes), and pasta, and bring to a boil.
Add meatballs back into the pot and stir occasionally. This is important. There’s a lot of dense stuff in your pan right now. If you don’t stir regularly, the heat from the stove will make sure that the bottom of your pan will burn the food, requiring TLC and elbow grease, and the top of the sauce will take forever to get done. If it gets too dry, add some more stock or plain water. Just use common sense.
Now add the uncooked pasta. It will take about 10-12 minutes (depending on the pasta) to finish the dish.
To kick this childhood food memory up a notch, add a cup of shredded Parmesan (or any shredded cheese you like) about 5 minutes before you think the pasta is ready. This will add the perfect gooeyness.
Divide onto plates and garnish with some more shredded cheese and roughly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley. Now let’s see if your friends talk about the wine or if they start to muse about their favorite childhood food memories….
Looking for more delicious and easy dinner ideas? Check out a few more of our delicious recipes:
- Sheet Pan Butternut Squash with Spicy Italian Sausage
- 30-Minute Spaghetti with Canned Clams and Fresh Tomato Sauce
- Creamy Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms and Fresh Parsley
- One Pan Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms
- Chili con Carne that'll make your taste buds go silly
- Deliciously Creamy One Pan Chicken and Beans
- Red Wine Braised Short Ribs in a Dutch Oven
- Slow Cooked Pulled Pork
- Brown Sugar Ham Glaze
- Cabbage and Sausage Casserole
- Garlic Knots
Did you make this One-Pot Sausage Meatballs with Pasta? Let us know in the comments below!
One-Pot Sausage Meatballs with Pasta
- 1 pound mild/sweet Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup chopped onion (or shallots)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 3 cloves (1 tablespoon) minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon oregano (dried or fresh)
- One 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes
- 3 cups beef stock
- 16 ounces dried pasta of your choice
- 1-½ cups freshly grated Parmesan (or cheese of your choice)
- Roughly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish
- Make a shallow cut in the sausage skin and remove it from the (uncooked) mild Italian sausage and cut into 4 pieces each.
- Shape each piece into a meatball, using the palms of your hands.
- In a large pan or skillet or Dutch oven, heat about one tablespoon of vegetable oil until it sizzles.
- Add meatballs and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to get all sides.
- Then remove the meatballs and set aside. It’s okay if they’re not fully cooked through at this point. They’ll cook through later when being put back in with the sauce.
- Add the butter to the same pan and stir in the onion. If there are any meatball bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan, great, scrape them off with a wooden spoon.
- Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
- Cook onions for about 5 minutes.
- Next, add minced garlic, tomato paste, anchovy paste (if using), and oregano, and stir well for 2 minutes.
- Add the can of tomatoes, 3 cups of beef stock, and pasta, and bring to a boil.
- Add meatballs back into the pot and stir occasionally.
- Now add the uncooked pasta. It will take about 10-12 minutes (depending on the pasta) to finish the dish.
- Add a cup of shredded Parmesan (or any shredded cheese you like) about 5 minutes before you think the pasta is ready.
- Divide onto plates and garnish with some more shredded cheese and roughly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley.
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