Simple Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs

So often I’m lazy and just make spaghetti, use canned sauce, and forgo the meat or mix in crumbled hamburger…we all do it, right? Other times if I’m in a hurry, I’ll purchase frozen meatballs and make spaghetti using those. But on very special days-when I’m feeling particularly loving and sweet…I go through the effort to make spaghetti with real homemade from-scratch meatballs. The heavens sing, the clouds part—well, okay I made that part up, but you might think that if you heard my husband talk about my homemade meatballs!

As with so many things, I don’t really have a recipe. I just make them using what I have and what sounds good, but I can give you a basic idea of what goes into them:
2 lbs of ground meat, usually 1 lb hamburger, 1 lb lamb or mild sausage
2 eggs
1 sleeve of crackers-crumbled to a semi-fine powder using a rolling pin and a Ziploc bag
Some Italian-Herb breadcrumbs (or whatever old bread I have on hand, crumbled to a fine powder)
Italian seasoning
Basil
Salt
Pepper
Onion powder (you can use real onions or deyhdrated onion flakes-we just don’t like onions much)
Garlic powder (or fresh garlic or minced garlic-depends on what I have on hand)
Just a touch of chili powder

Mix well, using your hands (it’s messy, but it doesn’t ruin the texture of the meat like a mixer does), and form into 1-2″ balls. (Sometimes I make small ones, other times I make larger ones-the only thing that matters is that all the meatballs in each batch are the same size as one another.)
Meatballs in pan

Heat a skillet over medium heat with olive oil in it (maybe 1 Tablespoon?) till the oil shimmers, but before it smokes. Once the oil and pan are hot, place the meatballs in the skillet, leaving space between each meatball so that it can cook evenly. Do it in batches if you need to. Your goal is NOT to cook the meatballs, but simply to get a pretty crust on them and give them a little flavor with the olive oil. Once a side is browned, turn the meatballs over and brown the other side-keep turning them over until there are no “exposed” sides that haven’t been browned. As soon as you have accomplished this goal, start putting the meatballs on a wire rack inside of a jelly roll/sheet pan. I use some old metal cooling racks inside my large sheet pan. Turn the oven to 350 to preheat. Do your next batch of meatballs in the skillet, adding olive oil if necessary.
Meatballs in oven

Once all the meatballs are on the wire racks inside the sheet pan, put them in the oven, and bake until they reach an internal temperature of 155. Should take between 20 and 30 minutes. The key to making yummy meatballs is the baking. You can forgo the skillet browning if you like and just bake them, that works too (and is less labor intensive, I might add), but I like to brown them all around so I don’t have to turn them in the oven. This method (using the wire racks inside the sheet pan) allows for the fat to drain off of the meatballs, leaving you with non-greasy meatballs that are ready to be eaten plain or thrown into a sauce without becoming mushy like many restaurant meatballs are when they cook them in the sauce.

I just use regular or whole wheat spaghetti noodles and Hunt’s Spaghetti Sauce (you can get a large can for a $1 on sale) that I’ve added my own spices to. Oh, and sometimes I add some canned sliced mushrooms, too-depends on my mood!
Spaghetti and Meatballs Close-up

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