I have a recipe for Italian meatballs that I have been making and refining for almost 20 years. It is always a crowd pleaser and so satisfying to dip bread in while the sauce is cooking over hours and hours. Last month, I attended a demonstration of a Greek Chef and he served meatballs and sauce. It was probably the best meatball I ever had. I decided to try to join some of his techniques and Greek ingredients with some of mine to make a slow cooked sauce (always has soo much flavor) and moist delicious meatballs.
This recipe, like most of my slow cooked recipes, makes about 7 quarts of sauce and approx. 70 meatballs. Be sure to have the right size pot or slow cooker. You can split it up between two pots if necessary or cut the recipe in half. I always cook more than I need as these freeze very well and are always a welcome week night quick dinner.
This is a Greek/Italian meatball and sauce recipe. If I do say so myself, they came out very good. One thing I use is garlic confit. This can be substituted with roasted garlic to give a mellow garlic flavor and garlic infused oil.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the loose outer skin of 3 – 4 garlic heads, leaving the head in tact. Slice about a 1/4 inch off the tops of the garlic exposing the individual cloves. Pour about 1 inch of olive oil in a shallow baking dish. Place the garlic cut side down in a shallow baking dish and cover loosely with tinfoil. Let cook until the garlic is soft and mushy, about 35 minutes.
When the Garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out and place into a container with the remaining oil. This can sit in the fridge for at least a week if not using the same day.
2 LB 85/15 ground beef
2 LB of Meatball Mix of ground meat (pork, veal and ground beef) OR 2 LB of ground pork
6 Greek Olives (Kalamata, Marinated Colossal Green, or combination), pitted and finely chopped
2 heads raw garlic finely chopped
7 cloves roasted garlic, mashed with 2 TBS garlic infused oil
1 Medium Red Onion, finely chopped
~3 TBS Fresh Herbs (Oregano (3 sprigs), Thyme (3 – 4 Sprigs), Basil (Handful), Dill (2 sprigs), Parsley (handful)), finely diced
2 TBS onion powder
2 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 loaf white bread slices, cut into cubes, crusts removed and put aside
1/2 – 2/3 cup of milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the cubed bread into a bowl and cover with the milk, letting the milk soak in. If it is too dry add a little more milk. Massage and crumble with your hands.
- Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with your hands thoroughly. Taste for flavor. For this I take about a teaspoon of the mixture and microwave on high for about 15 – 20 seconds. Adjust seasoning with salt/pepper, etc.. if necessary.
- Once the mixture is at your liking, scoop into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter (or slightly larger than a golf ball) and place on the baking sheets (reserve about 1 cup of meat mixture). Bake in the oven for about 7 – 10 minutes to set the meatballs, but not fully cooked. The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven and transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Reserve the liquid and fat that escaped. This will be added to the sauce for an incredible flavor infusion.
1 large white onion, small dice
2 heads of raw garlic, finely diced
8 cloves of the roasted garlic mashed
8 – 10 Greek Olives, minced (can be a combination of olives)
2 TBS of the garlic infused olive oil, or regular
the juice from the meatballs
1 can tomato paste
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
1 29 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, processed in a food processor or blender
2 cans 15 oz diced tomatoes, processed in a food processor or blended
2 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS onion powder
1.5 TBS dried Oregano
1.5 TBS dried Parsley
1.5 TBS dried Basil
3/4 Cup dry red wine
The crusts of the bread processed to bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Use either a 7 qt or larger slow cooker or a 8 qt or larger sauce pot on the stove. If the slow cooker has an insert that can be used on the stove top, that would be best. If not, the first few steps will need to be done in a large skillet or sauce pan then transferred to the slow cooker.
- In the pot/insert on the stove, add the olive oil to the pan and heat until it just begins to simmer. Add in the onions, garlic (both raw and roasted), fresh ground black pepper and olives and sauté on med until the onions start to become translucent.
- Add in the tomato paste, dried herbs (oregano, basil, parsley) and powder (garlic and onion). Stir and continue to cook about 5 minutes.
- Add in the reserved meatball mixture and reserved meatball juices. break up the ground meat as fine as you can.
- Once the meat is browned, add in the red wine. Stir for about 2 -3 minutes. At this point, transfer to a slow cooker if using.
- Add in all the tomatoes and processed bread crumbs. Swish a bit of water in the tomato cans to remove all the tomato sauce from the cans. Add this to the sauce.
- Stir over med heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Add the meatballs back in and bring back to a simmer.
- Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Then check the doneness of the meatballs. If they are done, remove them and put back into the bowl. Cover with tin foil and set aside.
- Reduce to med-low heat and let simmer for another 2.5- 4 hours. Stirring every 30 minutes. Taste after the first hour and adjust seasoning if needed. Don’t add any salt until after 2.5 hours, if it is needed at that point.
- Don’t forget to have some extra bread hanging around. Dipping bread in for taste testing is one of the best things in the world.
- When the sauce is done to your liking, turn the heat to the lowest setting, add the meatballs back in and let sit to re-warm for about 15 minutes (enough time to make some pasta) and serve.
- If not serving right away, turn off heat and let cook to room temperature before packaging and putting in the fridge.
There you go! One pot dinner. Or lunch or Snack, or as a party pleaser.