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Feeding a family of 6 daily home cooked meals requires a certain amount of organization and ingenuity. Organization because a weekly meal plan is an absolute must for me–it’s the only way that I can think when trying to cook dinner, help with homework, sort mail and school papers, and hold the hungry Baby simultaneously at the dinner hour. The ingenuity comes in re-purposing leftovers by making a large batch of one meal that everybody loves, and that I can serve 2 different ways. I kind of feel like I’m cheating when I do that, but the time savings is totally worth it.

A big favorite in our house is spaghetti and meatballs. I serve it to cheers and accolades from my boys, every time. The snarf it up as if I haven’t fed them in a week. They LOVE spaghetti and meatballs! But herein lies my dilemma. It seems that if I try to serve their beloved spaghetti and meatballs for a second night, my boys’ cheers are absent, leaving only the sound of crickets chirping. They won’t touch leftovers. My boys, it seems, can be fickle.

Enter the Meatball Slider. My boys will eat just about anything in presented in “mini” form, like these mini sandwiches.  Dilemma: solved.

The entire batch makes enough to serve around 12 people. But don’t freak out on me, here! If you are cooking for less than 6, this recipe is easily halved, and/or freezes beautifully. Or go ahead and make the whole batch and invite your friends and neighbors over for dinner. You’ll be the most popular person on the block!

Here’s what you will need:

2 quarts of Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce (or your favorite store-bought sauce)

2 pounds ground beef

¾ C. plain breadcrumbs

¼ C. grated parmesan cheese

2 egg whites

2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced

½ tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. black pepper

¾ C. milk

½ C. chopped onion

2 Tbs. olive oil

For Spaghetti:

1 pound dried spaghetti noodles

For Sliders:

12 Cornmeal rolls (or other small dinner rolls)

Cheese slices (optional)

Confession: I wasn’t planning to share this recipe at the time that I was making it. I was just thinking about getting dinner on the table, man. Then Son #1 came in and asked what was for dinner. When I told him, he replied “YES! You should TOTALLY blog about that! It’s awesome!” Now how could I argue with that logic? So pretend that I did a cast of characters shot, and took pictures of the meatball mixing process, ‘kay? Thanks.

Add the meatball ingredients to a large bowl: that’s ground beef, breadcrumbs, grated parmesan (Kraft in the green can is fine for this application,) egg whites, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and milk.  Knead everything together to thoroughly combine. Then, if you happen to have a small cookie scoop, grab it to portion the meat into large tablespoons. Gently roll the meat between both of your palms to make a meatball. Put the meatball onto a clean plate, and continue until all of the meat mixture has been rolled into meatballs. I typically get about 60 mini-meatballs per full batch.

Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven, and heat it over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for one minute. Working in batches, nestle the meatballs in a single layer between the onions and cook until brown on one side. Turn the meatballs to brown on the other side. The meatballs won’t be cooked through, and that’s alright. They are going to finish off in the sauce.

Once meatballs have browned, remove them to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining meatballs. When you are done, reduce the heat to medium.

Once the meatballs have been browned, the pan will be a big ol’ mess of browned bits. It may not be attractive, but that’s tasty stuff in there! So let’s deglaze the pan and use those tasty bits in the sauce.

Pour a quart of sauce into the pan, and whisk the bottom of the pan for a minute or two, to loosen the brown bits.

Gently lay the meatballs back to the pan, and pour the second quart of sauce over top. Give the pan a shimmy-shake to make sure that all of the meatballs are covered in sauce. Continue to cook and stir gently over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the meatballs in the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Now if you are going the Spaghetti and Meatballs route, boil the noodles according to the package directions. Drain them, and scoop noodle portions onto serving plates. Ladle a healthy dose of the meatballs and sauce over top.

If you opt for the Meatball Sliders route, split a couple of dinner rolls (per person,) and toast the insides right quick on a dry griddle over high heat. Toasting the insides of the rolls keep them from getting soggy from the sauce. Because soggy bread = gross. Obviously.

Scoop out 2-3 meatballs and put them on the bottom half of a toasted roll. Top with cheese (if using,) and then press the top half of the roll on top of the saucy meatballs. These sliders are messy–just like any self-respecting slider should be. If you don’t mind the mess, feel free to ladle a little extra sauce over the meatballs before adding the toppers.

Serve either version to a table full of hungry boys, and they will squeal with delight!

Spaghetti and Meatballs OR Meatball Sliders

http://comfortablydomestic.com

Serves 12 (2 separate meals for 6)

Recipe can be halved

2 quarts of Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce (or your favorite store-bought sauce)

2 pounds ground beef

¾ C. plain breadcrumbs

¼ C. grated parmesan cheese

2 egg whites

2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced

½ tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. black pepper

¾ C. milk

½ C. chopped onion

2 Tbs. olive oil

For Spaghetti:

1 pound dried spaghetti noodles

For Sliders:

12 Cornmeal or other dinner rolls

Cheese slices (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, combine meat, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, seasonings, and milk– kneading with your hands until well blended.
  2. Using a small cookie scoop, portion meat mixture into tablespoons. Roll meat into balls between your palms. Set meatballs on a clean plate until all of the meatballs are rolled.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onions and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Working in batches, add meatballs to the onion mixture, and sear for about a minute per side to brown on all sides.  Remove browned meatballs to a clean plate. Add more olive oil between batches, if necessary.
  5. Once all meatballs are browned and resting on a clean plate, reduce the heat to medium and add the first quart of sauce to the pan.
  6. Whisk the brown bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce.
  7. Gently lay meatballs on top of the sauce.
  8. Pour the second quart of sauce over the meatballs to cover.
  9. Continue heating on medium until mixture comes to a boil, stirring gently.

10.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer meatballs in sauce for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

For Spaghetti:

  1. Boil 1 pound dried spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Whole wheat noodles work beautifully.
  2. Drain pasta, and serve with meatballs and sauce.

For Sliders:

  1. Split 12 Cornmeal or other small dinner rolls in half and toast the halves on an ungreased griddle.
  2. Move toasted rolls to a dinner plate—2 rolls per person.
  3. Scoop 2-3 meatballs out of the sauce, and place onto the bottom half of the toasted rolls.
  4. Add a half slice of cheese, if desired, and top with the other half of the roll.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Once the meatballs have browned, they can be placed in a slow cooker with the sauce and simmered all day on the low heat setting.
  2. This sauce freezes beautifully! Cool completely and pack into freezer containers for another day.
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