MEATBALLS IN MARINARA
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.
For the meatballs:
1 tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
2 pounds ground beef or lamb (lamb is SO yummy in this recipe!), with a fairly high fat content (not too lean)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 slice of stale white 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. celtic salt
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil
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
4 cups (one of those 32-ounce boxes) low-sodium beef stock
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped (kitchen scissors are good for this)
1 tsp. each fresh (or dried) oregano and thyme
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 (optional)
In a large bowl, mix onion and garlic powder, ground meat, beaten eggs, cream, crumbled bread, salt and pepper with a fork until thoroughly combined. Wearing plastic gloves if you wish (keeps your fingernails from getting icky), scoop out the meat mixture with a spoon and pat into 1-inch meatballs (like you'd make a little snowball). 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. (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.) If it's a warm day and the meatballs are pretty squishy, you may want to pop them in the freezer for a few minutes before you go on to the next step: soft meatballs will fall apart when you're trying to brown 'em.
Next, scoop 1/2 cup all-purpose flour into a medium bowl, and roll the meatballs so they're coated with flour. Warm up about 1/2 cup olive oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven with lid (more if needed during the cooking process) over medium heat, and place as many meatballs as will comfortably fit in the bottom of the Dutch oven without touching each other. Brown them gently for a few minutes, rolling so all sides are nice and brown (please watch out! never leave hot oils unattended or in reach of children, and don't set the heat so high that the oil "pops" and burns you). Repeat with the rest of the meatballs, and set aside on a plate or large baking sheet.
Carefully mop up any remaining olive oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven with a paper towel, and throw away. Pour the red wine into the Dutch oven, bring to a boil, and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Add beef stock, tomatoes, and freshly-chopped herbs, and reduce heat to medium-low. Gently lower all the browned meatballs into the marinara sauce with a slotted spoon. Put the lid on, and allow to gently simmer (the marinara sauce will bubble gently and get a bit foamy, you can skim that off) for about 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 (if using) and cook an additional 10 minutes, covered. Ladle into bowls over hot brown rice.