Monday, March 28, 2011

Planning Ahead & Meat Balls

Spring break is almost here. Next week we are going to visit Williamsburg, Virginia for a week. We are so excited. I can't wait to see history through the eyes of my kids. We have been talking about all the sites, but hubby and I have been having a few conversations about more than just the sites.  Going on vacation takes a lot of planning.  Oil change, dog sitter, maps, clothing, food, money, mail, bills, everything needs to be pre-planned so that we can have a carefree week away from home.

When we go on vacation, we love staying in a condo for the week. We get room to spread out, we can hang out at the condo pool and relax, and most importantly we get a kitchen. This saves us so much money. It would be great to go away and eat out for a whole week, but truthfully that would be so expensive for us to feed our three boys alone, we would never leave home. Having a kitchen in the condo saves us so much money. We always say that we are already budgeted for groceries so that part of our vacation is paid for. 

For this trip we are lucky enough to be in a condo. I have already planned all the meals and I have bought all the make ahead items as well. The last dinner entree to go in the freezer today is the make ahead part of baked spaghetti and meat balls. I am making the meatballs and sauce at home to put in the freezer for a couple of reasons.   First of all, have you ever tried pronouncing all those ingredients on a bag of frozen meat balls?  Also, instead of using expensive jars of marinara, I buy much cheaper cans of  diced tomatoes, paste and sauce to make my non-authentic, but oh so yummy spaghetti and meatballs.   

  For this recipe you want a short wide pan if you have it. Start with a drizzle of olive oil in the bottom of your pan over medium heat.

Add your diced onion, salt and pepper.

Give it a stir and let it do it's thing.  One thing to note.  After you stir the onions, move them in the pan so that they are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan.  You do this so the onions can take advantage of the entire cooking surface.   

Please do not leave them like this.  They are begging you for more cooking surface.   

Now onto the garlic.  I have a garlic press.  I really do.  It's in that drawer that has all these weird kitchen things that I use once a year.  That drawer is a mess.  So, I am just going to use my little grater.  I have to grate some cheese for the meatballs, so this is going to get dirty anyway. Rachel Ray does it. 

Just take the clove of garlic and run it across the grater.

Don't forget that yummy goodness on the back of the grater. 

Add the grated garlic to your lovely caramelized onions.  Burned garlic is yucky.  So we want to want until the last minute to add the garlic.  Stir the garlic into the onions and give it exactly one minute to cook while you stir.

Add the tomato paste.  Stir it around and get it evenly mixed into the onions and garlic.

It should look something like this.

Immediately add the diced tomatoes and give it a stir.

It is starting to get more of a tomato sauce look to it. 

Add the tomato sauce... well as the Italian seasoning and pepper.  If you are buying tomato products that does not have any salt added to it, then you will want to add salt here as well.  

Stir in the seasoning and turn the heat down to low.  Cover the sauce while you mix up the meatballs.

In a large bowl add the ground turkey, bread crumbs, grated cheese, egg, freshly chopped parsley, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and grated garlic.

Mix everything up so that it is very well mixed.  You want everything incorporated, chunks of any one ingredient would not be good.   

I would now like to introduce one of my favorite little speed demons in the kitchen.  This is how I can make a whole pan of turkey meatballs in one minute.  :-)

Get a nice even scoop of turkey. 

Give your sauce a stir and then add the meatball right into the simmering sauce.  

It looks perfect.  It is perfect.  It looks lonely.

That is better.  Squeeze them in tightly so you can get all your meatballs in at once.  If you do not have enough space to get them all in at once, just repeat the process after these are finished cooking.

This is what they come out looking like.  Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon.  I am separating the meatballs from the sauce.  If you had more meatballs to cook then you would remove all the meatballs, give the sauce a stir and then drop in the rest of you meatballs.

Give the meatballs and sauce time to cool off.

The sauce.  It is going to be so good.   

After the meat balls and the sauce have cooled to room temperature, then bag them up.  If I was going to leave this in my freezer, then I would probably use plastic container that can be reused.  But these are going on vacation with us and space will be limited, so I am bagging them.  I'll show you how I put it all together next Monday. 

Make Ahead Meatballs


1 Medium Diced Onion
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
4 Cloves of Grated or Crushed Garlic
1 15oz Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 15oz Can of Tomato Sauce
1/2 of a 6 oz Can of Tomato Paste (You can freeze the rest for another time)
Italian Seasoning
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs
1/2 Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Teaspoons Fresh Parsley, Minced
2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning


1. Add a drizzle of olive oil to a wide low pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until slightly brown and tender. Add two cloves of crushed garlic. Stir for one minute.

2. Add the tomato paste and mix into the onion mixture. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Mix. Turn heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.

3. Add ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt and pinch of pepper to a mixing bowl. Stir ingredients together until well combined.

4. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, or a tablespoon measuring spoon, form meatballs using all the ground turkey mixture. Stir sauce and then gently add meatballs into sauce.

5. Cook meatballs on low for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through and there is no pink in the middle. Stir meatballs and sauce every few minutes, gently so as not to break up the meatballs.

6. Pull meatball out of sauce with a slotted spoon. Cool sauce and meatballs. Package items for freezer storage. Label items. Freeze.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.

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