It was our fourth date, the first meal I ever made for my new beau. I slaved all day Thursday making my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone loved her sauce and I was certain that by making it, he was going to fall in love with me! The night before, as I was finishing up cooling the big pot, I casually asked him while chatting on the phone what he had for dinner. Imagine my heart sinking when he told me spaghetti. I was devastated. It was one of the few dishes in my repertoire that I was confident I could get right. I had to go to plan B–lemon chicken. It turned out delicious but didn’t have the impact I’m sure the spaghetti would have had.
Flash forward several months when I made spaghetti and meatballs again. It was a HIT. My guy declared it better than his grandma’s–SORRY GRAM! He asked me if the meatballs were homemade because they were really, rEALLY good. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “I rolled ’em myself!” See…this was my mom’s secret recipe. I’m not sure if it was passed down over generations, but I can tell you my sisters and I all make the meatballs the exact same way. And now, I’ll share that secret with you: 2 pounds of S&T meatball mix…then roll ’em yourself and toss into the sauce. The cat’s out of the bag. We don’t actually MIX the meatballs–we just roll them. The premixed, spiced and seasoned meat makes the perfect addition to your red sauce. This stuff is seriously amazing. My sister and I have even talked about forming into burgers and serving it on garlic toast. They are really THAT good.
It wasn’t until about 4 or 5 months ago that I finally came clean to my now hubby. I’m sure he always wondered why I could ONLY buy my meat for meatballs at S&T. I could never make the recipe without planning WAY ahead to go to the old neighborhood to grab the beloved meatball mix. I told him it was just something about the way they ground the beef/pork mixture. I didn’t exactly lie…but I did omit the part where they did all the hard work!
After mom passed away, spaghetti and meatballs would be the first meal we ate together as a family. My sister prepared the sauce and rolled the meatballs herself. It was just as we had all remembered. Mom never wrote the recipe down. And as I’ve talked to my sisters, she may have made it a tiny bit differently each time…so I’m sure our recipes differ just a little. But Mom and I made it together many times over the almost year my husband and I lived there. This is the recipe I remember. The taste is perfection. It’s a sweeter sauce, thinner than some others you may have had. It takes only about 10-15 minutes to toss together. The longer it simmers the more delicious it gets. I’ve been known to make it the day before then add the raw meatballs and sauce to the crockpot the morning of. It’s an extremely cost effective meal to serve to a large family–which is why I’m sure we had it so often.
It will forever be the first family recipe I remember learning. It’s the taste of my childhood. Just the smell of onions and garlic bring me back to the house on Ridgeway–walking in after school to discover our favorite meal was being served: homemade spaghetti and meatballs–where the McKenna women roll ’em themselves.
Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce
2 medium or 3 small onions finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic pressed or chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-15 ounce can tomato puree
1-29 ounce can tomato paste
¾ paste can of water
1-29 ounce puree can of water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried basil
2-3 dry bay leaf
2 pounds S&T meatball mix
Heat oil on medium-high heat.
Add onion and garlic.
Sauté until onion is translucent but not burned (if garlic has burned you must start over).
Add the tomato paste and mix it into the onions and garlic until fragrant (about a minute or so).
Add ¾ of the paste can filled with water and stir until well combined.
Add tomato puree and a tomato puree can of full of water.
Add sugar, salt, basil, and bay.
Allow to simmer as long as possible on LOW stirring to avoid burning.
Adjust seasonings (salt, sugar, and basil).
Serve over pasta.
If you want to add meatballs, roll 2 pounds of S&T Meatball Mix and add to the sauce raw.
Allow to simmer until cooked through—at least an hour.