Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Celtic Girl's Guide to Red Sauce and Meatballs!

There are two schools of thought in the Blodgett House (aka: Ruthy's Place, that's my married name) concerning my sauce:

1. It's the worst sauce ever and I should stop making it.
2. It's the best sauce ever and I should make it weekly and keep some in the freezer for points of emergency.


Kind of like writing, isn't it? I don't have one book out of more than twenty published to date that pleases everyone! Recipes are like that, but good red sauce is such an integral part of family meals that it's important to attack in full frontal mode!

First the meatballs. My old meatballs were horrible. So then I approached my brother Sean (he's to-die-for cute and Irish-looking and I love him to pieces) because Sean is married to Linda and she's half-Italian and she and Sean make meatballs for family occasions and they ROCK IT. When we did a benefit for little Roman last year, they made over 300 meatballs and donated them. BIG, DELICIOUS MEATBALLS.... I love those guys.

Now I don't measure for this, but you'll get the gist:

3 lbs. Ground Round
2 eggs
1/2 cup ketchup/catsup
A big sprinkling of granulated garlic, like two tablespoons full
A big sprinkling of dried, chopped onion (kids don't like chunks of onion, this works well for kid/family-friendly meatballs) equal to the garlic and then shake a little more for good luck.
Salt - liberally sprinkled over meat in bowl
Pepper - Same, but not quite as liberal
1 cup Parmesan Cheese

I really don't measure the cheese. I can sew by eye, I can run a 1/4" seam or a 5/8" seam without using the guide because when you do something repeatedly, you just know...
So I dump the cheese in from the big canister but I can say with confidence that it's about a cup...

Take off your wedding ring and mix with hands. If mixture seems moist and firm, PERFECT! This is ground round, not a lot of fat, so this is perfect!!!

Baking meatballs has become a new thing. I find this dries them out and I don't want to spend nearly $17.00 on ground beef to dry it out.

I'm old-fashioned, simmer them in extra virgin olive oil girl.

Heat the olive oil to medium.... roll enough meatballs to fill the pan (mine is the extra-large Revere Chicken Fryer frying pan, I have two and I love them. My friend Susan gave me the second one because it didn't fit in her cupboards!!!! WIN FOR RUTHY!!!! :)

Simmer on low/medium heat, with cover on, turning once until done. And then pour the meatballs and half of the rendering/oil into the pot of sauce simmering on another burner.... and then repeat until all the meatballs are cooked. If you have too many, freeze some! You can pop them into freezer bags and toss them into the freezer to dress up a quick meal, any time! Another win!

This is an intoxicating smell, it's all amazing and wonderful and everyone who walks into the house wants a meatball, so make extra. And invite people over. Meatballs are great conversation starters!  For example:

"Ruthy, I thought I heard a chicken in trouble. Oh, are those meatballs? May I have one?"


"Ruthy, I'm pretty sure your chickens are all frozen solid, but I thought I'd stop by and borrow an egg. Are those meatballs I smell? Why don't we have coffee and meatballs and catch up on old times?"

See what I mean. There is an international language of good meatballs. I'm firmly convinced that the world would be a more loving place with more meatballs and Gloria Jean's Cookie Chillers. No one can be angry after they drink a Gloria Jean's Cookie Chiller.

But I digress...

THE SAUCE!!!!  Okay, youse know that I waitressed for eleven years at a great Greek restaurant/family diner style, with a Brazilian and Vietnamese cook. (Two cooks, one Brazilian, one Vietnamese, great guys)

Anyway, this sauce will make true Italians rent their clothes (old-style rent, like tearing them off in anguish) but it works and it's the one they used at Basel's and it comes out great, every time.

3 12 oz. cans Hunt's Tomato Paste
1 pint Ketchup

Put tomato paste and ketchup in big pan. Add enough hot tap water to make sauce consistency. I use my big whisk while I'm adding the water, and when the consistency is the same as a can of tomato sauce, I stop adding water! Sensible, right?

Then here's the restaurant trick: If you're using a wide pot, cover the top with each seasoning more lightly. If you're using a deeper, taller pot, sprinkle the following more densely across the top, layering the spices/herbs:

Using these amazingly fun add-ons, cover the top of the sauce with a layer of dried onion, dried garlic, basil, parsley, pepper and a generous layer of salt. Add 3-4 bay leaves.

Add 1/4 cup sugar.

Mix with whisk, heat and simmer lightly over very low heat. This is a marvelous sauce that pleases people tremendously! Basel's was popular for it's Italian dishes and this mainstay sauce was used on almost all of them.

Stop here for the vegetarian version, Kav!

But my sister-in-law Linda (the smart, savvy, half-Italian half Southern-Irish Realtor) taught me to add those meatball drippings into the sauce.

Oh, mylanta, that's the ticket to a meat-flavored sauce with just enough oil content to make you smile and declare yourself an honorary Italian!

Go you!!!!

Now I'm expecting that unless you're living in a rabbit warren (Watership Down, I loved that book) you've seen the news about our chronic snowfall these past few weeks. We haven't gotten hit quite as bad as Boston, and we're in the country, so we've got places to put the snow... but here are some taste of winter pics from upstate New York!

Fun in the snow:

The chicken run under 3 feet of snow on the level...

Great shot of my house, the snow is covering up the tacky stuff! PERFECT!!!

Girls being girls:

King Elijah:

A cloudy day at the marsh:

Another rarity, a clean bookshelf:

I have to record the rare cleanliness sightings as they occur! Wishing you all a blessed and thought-filled and thought-provoking Lenten season... Prepare ye the way, indeed!


  1. Okay, before I forget, do you hydrate the granulated garlic or just toss it in or is it garlic powder?

    Everything about those meatballs is marvelous. NO breadcrumbs. Yippee.

    And I thought I had house envy when you added the family room and uncovered the floors but that snow picture is a keeper! It should be in country living.

    So does the sauce opinion line up by gender, generation or a mix?

    Peace, Julie

    1. Julie, great question. Granulated garlic is dried garlic but in tiny salt-sized pieces. I think it gives better flavor than the powder. And I don't use breadcrumbs or crackers because they dry the meatball and I want them cooked but moist. These come out so nicely!

      House envy, hahaha! This is such a sweet old barn of a house, I love it and it got neglected for a lot of short-money, raising six kids years, but now we can fix things. Who'd a thought someone would get so excited about FIXING things??? LOL, it's fun and that's a great shot because so much is hidden beneath the snow!

    2. The sauce divide: The two Manhattan boys aren't impressed but they buy me stuff so I forgive them. :) Everyone else likes it. And the daycare families are on my side in this one, meatball day is like a celebration! I do 5lb. of beef if I'm making them on a daycare day because the school kids snack on them. So stinkin' cute, high protein, no carb snack! YES!!!

  2. I WANT TO MAKE THIS RIGHT NOW!! Thank you so much for sharing. I've never seen so much tomato paste in one recipe! (I usually only buy the tiny cans or the tube.) But I can't wait to try this! It must be a really rich sauce. Oh, and the meatballs! Having the cheese in there must make them wonderful. I can't wait to try this.

    1. Missy, you can cut it in half or thirds, but I like a pot of sauce in the fridge for a few days. (It thickens as it stands) Then if I want to do chicken Parm, the sauce is ready. If I want to do meatball sandwiches for the guys, it's all set. Then I freeze whatever is left over in a gallon-sized freezer bag, laid flat, so I can stack them. You know my crazy schedule, so if I can get a couple of meals out of something, I'm all over that!

  3. This sauce recipe looks so dang good! I think I'm putting it on the menu soon. Real Soon.

    1. Nikki, thank you for joining the approving side, LOL! Tell me what you think when you try it. It's a people pleaser here! And I'm so glad you stopped by! Thank you!

  4. WHY? Why did I come here at 2AM?? I must hate myself. Because now I need giant meatballs, home made sauce, and spaghetti. And there is none to be had.
    I will never learn. DO NOT come to YBC in the wee hours when all are sleeping and it would be ill-mannered to bang pots and pans in the kitchen.