I became aware of chef Mark Bittman through his New York Times food blog, Bitten. I loved the simplicity of his recipes, so for the holidays - even though I don't have the space for another cookbook - one of my requests was for his tome, How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food.
I recently decided to make meatball sandwiches, so I turned to Bittman's book for a basic recipe. But he had one recipe for meatballs, and another recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. I wasn't sure what to do - the meal I was planning was sort of in between those two. So I kind of combined the two recipes, which meant I did a lot of adapting. These measurements are approximate, since I was really cooking on the fly.
Meatball sandwiches - adapted from How To Cook Everything
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
Brioche or other rolls
Shredded mozzarella cheese
1. To prepare meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk. Soak for five minutes, or until milk is mostly absorbed. Add the oil through parsley and mix throughly. Add the meat and mix well, handling the mixture as little as possible.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Form the meat mixture into balls and place on the baking sheet, making sure the meatballs don't touch. Bake the meatballs for 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked through and browned, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the meatballs don't stick.
3. To prepare marinara: While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, oregano and garlic, and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or until sauce is thick (I let mine go for a couple of hours, and it was great). Add half of the meatballs and stir well.
4. To prepare the sandwiches, slice the rolls in half and top the bottom half with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella cheese on the meatballs and cover with the top half of the bread. (The heat from the meatballs will melt the cheese, but you can also place the uncovered sandwich under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese - this would be especially good if you like browned cheese.)
Lots of notes and thoughts on this one: I loved these meatballs, and I used all beef even though traditional meatloaf/meatballs call for a combination of beef, pork and/or veal. The marinara sauce was only enough for half of the meatballs - you can make double the amount of marinara or do what I did and freeze half of the meatballs for another day. A half recipe of meatballs and the marinara made enough for four very hearty sandwiches.
I baked the meatballs because Bittman suggested it as an alternative to frying, and I'm all for anything that doesn't need to be constantly tended. But you can certainly fry or saute the meatballs if you prefer. I also left out onions from both the meatball and marinara sauce recipes, since Marc and I both dislike them. But if you like onions, by all means, add some chopped onion to both the meatballs and the sauce.
I personally would have preferred a more traditional meatball hero with a french or other long roll. But I picked up brioche rolls from Trader Joe's and Marc loved them. He really thought they made the sandwich, which is why I've included them in the recipe.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the boys didn't eat these. I'll have more on that later in the week, along with my latest thoughts on the Ellyn Satter book.