Monday, May 2, 2011

Make-Ahead Monday: Meatballs and Marinara

How's that for alliteration!?

I have a lot of Mondays off and those are the best time to get some meal starters prepped and frozen for the rest of the week. Spaghetti and Meatballs were requested for tonight's dinner, so I made a gigantic batch of vegetable-packed super healthy tomato sauce-- enough to freeze more than half for later use. With that I made over 50 meatballs whose destination is also the freezer. These will come in handy this summer when running the oven will be outlawed.

Here's how you can prepare several meals' worth of meatballs and red sauce to stash in your "second pantry"

The Meat

Use 6-7 pounds of any combination of meat you want.  Pick at least one fatty meat like pork sausage.  For some reason it costs more without the casings, so I usually just squeeze them out myself.  Choose flavorful meat like lamb.  Ground sirloin was on sale so I picked that.  And finally some ground turkey, which is lean and basically a filler.  

Grind about four tablespoons of fennel seed until it is only half pulverized.  You still want to have some whole seeds.  Find in your pantry your favorite Italian seasonings .  Mine are shown below.  
Grab your largest bowl.  This is mine!  

Heat your oven to 375 and line 3 or 4 baking sheets with foil.  Take off all your rings, and using your hands combine all the ingredients in the bowl.  
With an ice cream disher or two spoons, form your meatballs and line them up on your sheet pans.  

Throw them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, and gather some vegetables for your veggie-packed marinara!  

The Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is the best way to hide vegetables from picky kids.  I don't have those, fortunately, but this is nonetheless a crowd-pleaser.  

What veggies to use depends on the season, and during this warm summer, squash are a fantastic price.  Carrots are always nutritious and cheap, and mushrooms add a meatiness to the sauce.  And the pre-cut tri-color pepper blend was on sale today so that will be included as well.  

After roughly chopping and seasoning all the vegetables, brown them in olive oil, in batches, transferring each batch to your largest pot when the onions are transparent and the water cooks off.  

When the last batch has browned, deglaze the pot with some wine.  Cook for a minute before adding it to the larger pot.  

Add three 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  When the carrots have softened completely, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.  

If you do not have an immersion blender skip this step; this sauce is delicious served chunky.  

Simmer until the sauce thinkens, then allow it to cool and store in your freezer.  

I use glass jars for this, only because I have a ton of them lying around.  If you are going to do this, make sure there is an inch of headspace in the top of the jar, to allow it to expand when frozen.  

Better yet, freeze flat in zipper bags alongside your meatballs.  Using this recipe today, I made 54 large meatballs to use on future pasta or in sandwiches, smothered in melty provolone.  This is a great make-ahead because it's my family's favorite, so they don't mind seeing it again and again!  

1 comment:

Bill said...

smart ideas (that also look delicious), and just really thoughtful. think ahead, plan ahead, and no more eating like crap!
Dom might have something going here.