December 29, 2010

Pasta and Meatballs with Chunky Marinara Sauce

We had our Christmas dinner the weekend before Christmas, when Juli's son and his partner dropped by for a visit.  That dinner featured a ham, dinner rolls, and some festive sides.   By the time Christmas itself rolled around, we were pretty tired for various reasons, including dealing with winter weather, and neither of us was in the mood for a traditional Xmas feast.   Instead, I simply cooked something tasty for lunch and supper.

Lunch was pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs.  I made up a variation on my Quick Marinara Sauce recipe, mostly because we didn't have enough crushed tomato to make up a full batch of the basic recipe.  We had several cans of diced tomatoes, though, so I made up for what I didn't have in crushed tomato by adding some diced tomatoes.  The result was a chunky sauce.  It was, frankly, delicious... every bit as good as the non-chunky sauce. 

One of these days I'll have to get around to finding or making a good recipe for Italian-style meatballs, but this time around I didn't want to go to that much work, so I went with our standby:  Frozen handmade meatballs from Graziano Bros. Grocery.   Their excellence is the main reason I haven't really felt a strong need to find or come up with my own meatball recipe. 

For the pasta, I skipped the traditional spaghetti and cooked up some radiatore for something different.  We'd picked that up awhile back but hadn't gotten around to using it for anything.  It went great with the sauce and meatballs.  

Juli used a loaf of Italian bread we'd picked up the day before to make some garlic bread to go with our lunch.

Pasta with red sauce and meatballs might not be a traditional Christmas meal for most people, but it sure hit the spot for us!

Our Christmas lunch.
The garlic bread isn't pictured, as it was still in the oven.

Pasta with Chunky Marinara Sauce

yield = 6 servings

1        28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1        15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
5        quarts water + 1/2 cup
2        teaspoons table salt, divided
24      frozen meatballs (optional)
2        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1        large onion, minced
2        teaspoons minced garlic
2        teaspoons dried oregano
1        6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2     cup red wine
1        teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1        teaspoon sugar
1/8     teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4     pound uncooked pasta
1/4    cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2        tablespoons freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
          + extra for serving
2        teaspoons dried basil

Christmas morning in the kitchen.
Left:  Stock pot with water boiling for the pasta
Right front:  Dutch oven with onions
Right rear: Saucepan with crushed and diced
tomatoes simmering.

Heat the crushed tomato and diced tomatoes in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook until it has thickened significantly.  Add 5 quarts water and 1 teaspoon table salt to a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil.  (If you are making the dish with meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange the meatballs on a wire baking rack set over a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Place in the oven and cook for approximately 1/2 hour, or until done.)

Meanwhile, add the oil to a Dutch oven over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown.  Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook for about 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste and cook another minute.  Add red wine and water and cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the sugar, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.

By that point, the tomato mixture should have cooked down enough.  Add the thickened tomato mixture to the Dutch oven, stir thoroughly, reduce heat and cook at a low simmer.

When the water in the large pot has come to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to directions.  At the same time, add the cheddar cheese, two tablespoons Parmesan cheese and basil to the Dutch oven and stir in.  (If you are making the dish with meatballs, stir them into the sauce at this time as well.)

Drain the pasta and serve topped with the sauce (and meatballs, if desired) and with grated Parmesan cheese.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:46 PM CST

    I made this tonight for dinner. LOVE the sauce!! Usually I make the family Lawrence sauce that has to cook all day (which has a strong tomato flavor). I had some sweet red wine left over thought it would make the sauce even better. I upped the amount to 3/4 C wine and 1/4 C water. Sweet, herby, and delicious! This recipe really hit a homerun on this cold wintery night. Kudos on this recipe! :-)