Extra lean ground beef and/or sirloin (I buy 90-95% lean) is one of my favorite things. I’m not gonna lie–it doesn’t always get as tender as higher fat beef so it’s not always as melt-in-your-mouth good as fatty burgers, etc. But, I still like it and it satisfies my red meat cravings without being high in fat. Sirloin is tastier than regular ground beef, in my opinion, and it’s great for meatballs so you don’t get a bunch of fat in the sauce. The added benefit is it’s not ground turkey, which, I’m sorry to say, I don’t like at all (not to mention some ground turkey is not as healthy as people assume).
Personally, I think my meatballs are pretty darn tender and tasty for using such lean ground beef. So, tonight I made good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs! You will notice that I use whole wheat pasta about 95% of the time (I can’t and won’t do it for orzo; not sure why but it tastes funky to me). And you should, too! I bake my meatballs to make them lighter, but feel free to pan fry.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 lb. ground beef (I use extra lean ground beef but if you don’t mind the fat content a mixture of ground beef and ground pork works well)
1 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried basil or 1 Tbsp fresh
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400*
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, a pinch of salt, and cook about 2-3 minutes before adding parsley and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes more and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs and milk in large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, add the onion mixture, beef, egg, parmesan, salt, basil and pepper to the bread crumb bowl. Mix well, but not for too long or you will toughen the meatballs. Form into 1-1.5″ balls and place on a rack in a baking sheet (or just right on the baking sheet).
Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until done.
Add cooked meatballs to pasta sauce and simmer a little, while pasta is cooking (I usually toss the pasta in the boiling water just after adding the cooked meatballs to the sauce).
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine (optional; I often use a tablespoon or two of balsamic instead)
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed tomatoes (or you could use one 28-oz. can and omit the diced)
1/2 cup beef broth or water
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of sugar, if necessary
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Then, add tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Cook an additional minute or so, being careful not to burn the onion/paste, before adding garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add red wine or vinegar to deglaze (if you want) and then add tomatoes, water/broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for a thinner sauce and uncovered for a thicker sauce. Add a pinch of sugar if the sauce seems to acidic. Off the heat, stir in the basil (If simmering the meatballs in the sauce, add the basil at the end, just before tossing with pasta).