With the holidays coming up; and all the entertaining, I’m always on the lookout for cool ways to present food. I call this a “starter” recipe (I’ll explain that in a bit) because they are easy to prepare, and are versatile to work with.
The prep is easy, and most of the work is done in the slow cooker.
These babies are a total crowd pleaser. No matter how many that I make, I never seem to have any left at the end of the day.
4When the oil begins to shimmer, then add the onions, and garlic.
5Sauté until the onions begin to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes.
6Add the shredded carrots, and continue to sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
7Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, lemon zest, and beef stock, and then allow the ingredients to lightly simmer for 15 minutes.
8Chef’s Tip: At this time, season with the cayenne, kosher salt, and black pepper.
9Chef’s Note: This type of sauce typically requires a good amount of salt to bring out the flavors of the tomatoes; however, go carefully. This sauce will be in a slow cooker for 4 hours, and things have a tendency to get a bit concentrated over that long of a cooking time. Repeat after me: Season and Taste… Season and Taste.
10After 15 minutes of simmering, remove from the heat, cover, and reserve.
11Chef’s Note: To puree or not to puree… that is the question. By definition a typical marinara sauce is smooth; however, I like the levels of flavor you get when you leave the carrots, and onions as they are… So, for this particular recipe, I don’t puree the sauce.
12Chef’s Note: As the sauce is simmering, you can get a head start on the meatballs.
14Chef’s Note: I call this a meatball starter recipe. From this base you can come up with all kinds of ideas.
1. Make them a bit larger (1.5 inches/3.8cm), and serve them over pasta, and you have Spaghetti and Meatballs.
2. Make them the same size as the recipe calls for, place them on a small bun, and you have Meatball Sliders.
3. Make them a bit larger (1.5 inches/3.8cm), and place them and the sauce in a sliced hoagie, and you have a Classic Italian Meatball Sub.
15Gather your ingredients.
16Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl, and mix thoroughly.
17Add the remainder of the ingredients.
18Use your hands to combine the ingredients.
19Make meatballs using 1 ounce of mixture, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
20Chef’s Tip: 1 ounce of mixture is equal to a slightly rounded tablespoon.
21Chef’s Note: They should measure about 1 inch/2.5cm in diameter.
22Place a rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 420f (215c).
23Place the meatballs in the oven, and cook for 12 minutes.
24Chef’s Note: They won’t be fully cooked, but baking in the oven helped to firm them up a bit, and we rendered out some of that nasty fat.
25When they are cool enough to handle place them on the bottom of a slow cooker.
26Pour the marinara sauce over the top; making sure that they are completely covered.
27Cook on low for 4 hours.
28Remove the meatballs from the slow cooker and reserve in a bowl.
29Add the lemon juice to the marinara sauce and stir to combine.
30Place some marinara in a small serving dish and add a meatball.