A classic. This version is start to finish from scratch. No jars of pre-made sauce here. To make this recipe we are assuming you will have a few pantry item like: eggs, a piece of bread, and possibly some cheese on hand. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making sauce from scratch. After you do it once with in-season tomatoes, you will never go back. Our recipe is made with turkey meatballs. If you prefer, beef, pork or a combo, just sub in the same amount of your meat of choice.
For the Sauce
2-3 pounds of roma tomatoes (You can so use a can of whole peeled tomatoes if fresh are not in season).
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red or yellow onion
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil or parsley chopped to garnish.
Optional: for a bit of spice a pinch of red chili flakes
For the Meatballs
1 pound of ground turkey (or ground beef, pork, chicken, or a combination).
1/2 onion chopped very finely
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
1 slice of bread, or a burger or hotdog bun
3 tablespoons milk or half & half. Water also works if neither are available.
Salt and pepper to taste.
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
Optional but recommended: 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Step 1: Poach the tomatoes
In a large pot add your tomatoes and fill with water just to cover. Turn on high heat and bring tomatoes to a simmer. While the water is warming in a separate large bowl make a cold water ice bath. As soon as the tomatoes have come to a simmer you should see their skins have begun to split. At this time, remove the tomatoes by either pouring into a colander or individually straining each one and place them in the ice water. Let cool so you can handle them without burning yourself.
Step 2: Prepare the sauce
Chop your 1/2 onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Take another pot (ideally thick enameled cast iron, but any good pot works) and place on medium heat. Add olive oil. Then add onions and begin to sauté. While onions are cooking, remove the skin from your tomatoes. It should peel easily now that they have been blanched and cooled. Then chop (or squish with your hands) the tomatoes. When the onions are at the translucent state and your tomatoes are peeled and chopped/squished (should have taken about 5 minutes) add the tomatoes to the pot. At the same time add the chopped garlic. Add sugar, salt and pepper. Turn burner to low-medium heat and simmer for about 15-35 minutes. Stir occasionally. See tip below on how to tell your sauce is done.
How to know the sauce is done? Total time to cook your sauce will depend on the water content in your tomatoes. You will know it is done when some oil floats to the top and when you part the sauce on the bottom of your pan it take a second or two until the sauce covers back up the space you made. If you “part” the sauce and it immediately runs back covering the space you made with your spoon, there is still too much water and you need to cook a bit longer.
Step 3: Make the meatballs (This should be done in the time your sauce is cooking.
First preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl rip your single piece of bread, or hotdog/burger bun into small (pea sized) chunks. Place in the bowl. Add one egg to the bowl along with your milk, half and half, or water. Let the bread soak up the liquid for a few minutes.
Next do a very fine chop on your 1/2 onion and 1 garlic clove then add to your bowl with the bread. Next add chopped parsley, grated cheese and your meat. Mix (ideally with your hands) until all the ingredients are fully combined.
Take a baking sheet drizzled with a touch of oil and begin add your meatballs. To do this, form the ball with your hand and place on the pan. With 1 pound of meat should make around 8-10 meatballs. One they are all formed on the baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for roughly 20 minutes. Note: The baking of the meatballs should roughly coincide with the time it takes your sauce to cook.
When the meatballs are fully cooked, remove from the oven. You can then place them in the cooking sauce and simmer for 5 minutes, or leave them separate.
Step 4: Cook your Pasta
Put a pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling add pasta and cook per packaged instructions. Fresh pasta should cook in about 3-5 minutes. Dry will take around 15 minutes. Make sure you test the pasta frequently to ensure it is cooked perfectly.
Step 5: Plating
This is an important step that is often overlooked. When your pasta is fully cooked dump the pasta and water into a colander. Immediately take the now empty pot and return to a burner on low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and ladle 1-2 cups of your now finished sauce to the pan. Then take your drained pasta and add it back into the pan. Stir and toss until the pasta is totally coated. Doing this allows the pasta to absorb and pit of the sauce and airdates the dish. This improves the flavor. Once this is complete take the now sauced pasta and add to individual bowls. Then ladle more sauce and meatballs on top of each bowl depending. Garnish with parsley, basil, or both and add a bit more grated parmesan. Enjoy!