Meatballs In Marinara Sauce

This delicious recipe is adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon...have no fear of the long ingredients list: it's worth the effort. To make this a more approachable dinner, you may want to try making the meatballs ahead of time and freezing them.  Then all you have to do is make the marinara sauce the night of, which is easy.  I love this recipe because it smells phenomenal while it's simmering on the stovetop.  Good to know: it freezes and reheats very well, too.  Delicious served over hot brown rice.

Serves: 5-6
Allergen List: contains wheat, eggs


For the meatballs:

1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 pounds ground beef or lamb (lamb is SO yummy in this recipe!), with a fairly high fat content (not too lean)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 slice of stale whole wheat bread, crumbled (about 1/3 cup of crumbs)  
Please DO NOT substitute the bread crumbs that come in cans from the store here...disaster will ensue!  The fine bread crumbs clump up and ruin the meatball mixture, which I found out the hard way once (of course, while preparing the dish for company...isn't that how it goes?  Your recipes cooperate nicely until you attempt to entertain, a topic I discuss at length here and here.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

For the marinara sauce:

1/2 cup easygoing red wine, such as a 2015 Laurent Dublanc Côtes-du-Rhône from France, currently available at Trader Joe's for under $10 a bottle, and fancy-shmancy enough to impress any guest, plus more for you to drink while cooking (chef's privilege)
4 cups low-sodium beef stock (otherwise the marinara sauce gets way too salty)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh oregano and/or thyme, to taste
26 ounce-box plain diced/chopped tomatoes, no herbs or salt added (I use a brand called Pomi), about 3 cups
2 cups frozen chopped spinach (can also use fresh)


In a 6-quart Dutch oven with lid, sauté onions and garlic in butter over medium heat until soft, about 8-10 minutes, stirring so they don't burn.  Remove from heat.  In a large mixing bowl, mix ground meat, eggs, salt & pepper, and crumbled stale bread with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Spoon the onion/garlic mixture into the meat mixture, and stir well.  Reserve the butter in the Dutch oven for the next step.  

Wearing plastic gloves if you wish, and a spoon, scoop out the meat mixture and form into 1-inch meatballs.  Place some waxed paper over a large plate, and put the meatballs on the plate as you go.  Add a layer of wax paper on the top and stack more meatballs on it, as needed.  When finished, place the plate of meatballs in the freezer while you work on the marinara sauce--this will help them hold their shape better in the final dish.  (At this point, you can start your brown rice cooking on the stovetop, if you're planning to serve this dish over rice.  It can also go over a hefty pasta.)

Pour wine, beef stock, tomatoes and freshly-chopped herbs into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and carefully lower the meatballs into the marinara sauce with a large slotted spoon.  Cover with the lid and allow to gently simmer (marinara sauce will bubble gently and get a bit foamy) for 20 minutes.  A minute or so after you put the lid on, check to make sure the heat under the pot isn't too low (sauce is just sitting there) or too high (boiling and burning the meatballs to the bottom).  After 20 minutes, add the frozen spinach and cook an additional 10 minutes, covered.  Serve over hot brown rice.