armadillas



Worries lead to worts, wrinkles, and grey hair

Sometimes life hits you full force and your reaction is too slow to do anything about it. It’s like that black cloud you keep getting rid of finds a way back and you have to keep pulling out your umbrella. You’re always having one of those days, or one of those months, or heck even one of those years. Maybe your car puttered out or you lost your job or a loved one skipped town without a moments notice. Or maybe you just struggle with your bills. Seemingly worse, someone dear to you can’t stay out of trouble and you feel helpless as what to do for them. Perhaps you’re powerless to do anything at all except wait to hear the judgement.

On those dark days, we all deserve a little comfort. We deserve to feel love and warmth to give us hope that things will turn out better than we ever could’ve thought. When I’m feeling low and am seeking comfort, I head into the kitchen (after finding a big hug of course). It’s not that I have a need to eat, and honestly I’d rather cook for others than for myself. I go to the kitchen because it’s my favorite room in the house. If I could put a recliner or couch in there I surely would. Aside from writing my feelings and thoughts down, cooking is my most therapeutic habit. There’s something extremely calming about pulling ingredients from the cupboards and following a recipe. It’s the act of creation, I suppose, that eases the mind and settles the soul. Like any physical act, cooking gives you a sense of purpose for the moment.

When I want to make comfort food, pasta usually comes to mind. I grew up with an Italian-American father and our meals were thus heavily influenced by his Sicilian heritage (though probably not as influenced as my childhood memories would have me recall). On my mother’s side of the family, pasta was an easy go to meal when people unexpectedly showed up. Spaghetti was common fare. So sometimes, that’s what I think of when I want to indulge in some comfort food- and don’t feel like making lasagna. So that’s what I made last night for dinner after receiving some disheartening news.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s safe to say I like things hot! You’d think I was making arrabiata instead of spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; season things to your own taste. If you don’t like an extra extra kick in your sauce, by all means only add a tinsy winsy bit of crushed red pepper. I’m pretty sure I added more this round then I meant to anyway, but I still loved it (I feel for the poor boyfriend though. I’m always adding hot stuff into our food it seems!) Also, there’s only two of us so I didn’t make all that much sauce. Waste not, want not! You can double, triple, quadruple the recipe if you like. Add some wine, too, if you feel like it!

Ingredients:

The Balls

  • 1 lb ground beef (or meat of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used an Italian blend but unseasoned is okay)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (grated is fine)
  • Splash of milk or water
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Small handful fresh basil, chopped

The Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs garlic (plus some extra if it suites your fancy)
  • 1 large can crush tomatoes
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped

Since basil is the only thing that seems to be growing in my garden, that’s the herb with which I used to make my sauce. But you can use any Italian herb to your liking- parsley, oregano, mixed blend. Plus, I just really love basil.

First, we need to make our meatballs. Take all those ingredients in the first list and plop them into a medium bowl

I almost forgot the cheese. Wouldn’t that have led to some sad meatballs!

Mix mix mix! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. This is the fun part! Ah, if only dough were as easy to work with as ground meat…

If you possess a melon baller (unlike me), this would be the time to break it in. A mini scooper of any kind would work as well. Just dig in and make some balls! But some of us have to do it the old fashioned way. Pinch off some meat and roll in between your hands until it forms into a little ball

Keep your meatballs uniform in size so they’ll cook up evenly. I like mini balls, but make them whatever size drives your tractor. You’ll need to stick them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Or you can just go ahead and cook them. However, I like the freezer step. In the meantime, chop your onion and mince your garlic if you’re using fresh garlic

Back to the balls! In a heavy (deep) pan, cover the bottom with olive oil and fry your meatballs. We aren’t cooking them all the way through. Just giving them a nice sear is all

I developed a lovely method of swirling the hot oil and balls around in the pan. DANGER: don’t try this at home (or attempt at own risk)

Once the meat is browned (but not cooked), set aside on a paper towel

On to the sauce! Now, I’m not much of a beef fan so I drained the excess grease from my pot (though I didn’t wipe it clean) and drizzled in some olive oil. But by all means, use the beef drippings if you like! Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook until translucent

Everything’s downhill from here! Stir in your can of crushed tomatoes

Add sugar, salt, and pepper. The sugar combats the acidity in los tomates

Now add the basil. Add more than this. We LOVE basil. My garden is just a little low on fresh leaves at the moment. I really should get some more plants planted…

Finally, it’s time to add the meatballs back in. Turn heat down from medium to low and simmer for half an hour until the meat if fully cooked. While that bit of magic is happening, don’t forget to cook your spaghetti noodles in slightly salted water. My dad adds a splash of oil to his boiling water and so do I!

Oh yeah, don’t forget to add your crushed red pepper flakes either. You can do that when you add the salt, pepper, and sugar. Or when you add the basil. You could do it when you add the meat, but it’s easier to sir around if you do it beforehand

Buon Appetito! Load a bowl up and sprinkle with some of that shredded parm. If you think it’s too spicy, pour yourself a nice glass of milk. Or think fondly of your late Italian-American grandmother and make yourself an espresso.

Here’s too comfort food and cooking your worries way! Mangia!

P.S. I bet these would make for great meatball subs. Mmm

Tijuana

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