Something Different
Week of: January 31, 2011
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Super Meatballs Are a Sure Winner

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Ok, Super Bowl Sunday looms. Whether that means cooking for a gang or sneaking off to catch a movie at an uncowded multiplex, you will be a winner serving these meatballs teamed with he-man lusty, heat-spiked fra diavolo tomato sauce.

I call these Super Meatballs for three reasons:

  1. First, simmering them in the sauce keeps them super-moist and juicy. Ask any Italian cook. They will confirm this is the best way to make meatballs, plus you get the most flavorful sauce, and all in one pot. In addition, cooking meatballs in the sauce eliminates the mess of browning them on the stove or the time for doing it in the oven.
  2. Second, meat lovers and others inclined to shun leafy greens will consume some spinach. They may even like it because the bold flavors of pecorino cheese and the terrific tomato sauce complement the spinach ideally.
  3. Finally, if you are feeding a mob, simply get out a bigger pot and multiply the recipe. (If tripling it, I would simmer the sauce for 30 minutes before adding the meatballs and expect cooking them to take 10 or 15 minutes longer.)


Super Meatballs with Spicy Red Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 (28-oz.) can no salt added crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-oz.) can no salt added whole plum tomatoes in tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 lb. 93-95 percent lean ground beef
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until onions are translucent, 3 minutes, stirring so garlic does not burn. Add crushed tomatoes. To add whole tomatoes, hold one at a time over pot and squeeze it in your fist, crushing tomato through your fingers, then add sauce remaining in can. Add oregano and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While sauce simmers, in mixing bowl, combine meat, spinach, breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, egg and pepper, mixing until well combined. Divide mixture into 8 parts and form each loosely into a meatball. (Divide mixture into 16 parts for smaller meatballs, if desired.)

Gently drop uncooked meatballs into sauce, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 40 minutes. If not serving immediately, cool meatballs and sauce together in big bowl until room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, in large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Serve meatballs in a bowl with just Spicy Red Sauce, over spaghetti or polenta, or halved to make meatball sandwiches spooned generously with sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 380 calories, 13 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrate,
36 g protein, 9 g dietary fiber, 480 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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