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The Speckled Palate
August 26, 2015

Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it’s hard not to love this dish.

Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it's hard not to love this dish.

Ten years ago this week, a storm was brewin’, and I had no idea what was about to happen. As a Tennessean and as someone who’d never actually experienced a hurricane before, I didn’t have a clue, other than I assumed it would be like an extended tornado. (Thank goodness it’s not like that. Tornadoes are terrifying, y’all.)

There’s no way any of us could have known what was about to happen.

At the end of the first week of the fall semester, LSU announced classes would be cancelled the following Monday because of the storm. I was in the photo lab, printing a few images for my advanced photo class, when one of my classmates announced the news. We were all excited because it meant we’d have a long weekend. And we were all excited because none of us actually expected the hurricane to hit.

We’d been lucky previous years. No hurricanes came close enough to merit class cancellation my freshman year. My sophomore year, we were granted time off for Hurricane Ivan, which hit the Alabama coast. We didn’t see a drop of rain.

I assumed Katrina would be the same.

Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it's hard not to love this dish.

As the weekend progressed, I became more nervous as the storm grew nearer, becoming an imminent threat.

The thing was… thousands of New Orleanians had already evacuated to Baton Rouge (and further west and north and east, too), and the streets were jammed; hotels packed; restaurants crowded. And for me to go home to Memphis? It would be near impossible. If I was lucky enough to drive out of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas, there was no telling what I-55 would look like. And just like that, the fleeting idea of going home was squashed.

So after church on Sunday, the 28th, I ended up at the grocery store, purchasing ingredients to make my mom’s famous spaghetti and meatballs while everyone else was purchasing liquor, water and other storm essentials.

Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it's hard not to love this dish.

Even in college, I knew cooking helped relieve stress, so while other people prepared for the hurricane, I spent my afternoon in the kitchen.

Spaghetti and meatballs is the comfort food I turn to when something is going wrong in my life, and the day before Katrina hit, that’s what I whipped up.

Now, every time I make spaghetti and meatballs — or spag ‘n balls, as we lovingly call it in my family — I think about that day and that time in my life.

I naively stayed in the kitchen all afternoon, channeling my nerves and making a massive pot of spaghetti and meatballs to feed my friends the night before Katrina made landfall.

I had no idea what was going to happen.

I had no idea how our lives, our friends’ lives, our city and our state, as well as the state I would live in after graduation, were going to be forever altered by that storm.

Instead of focusing on my fear of the unknown and a massive hurricane bearing down on a state I’d come to adore, I made meatballs.

Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it's hard not to love this dish.

I’ll be back Friday with some more Katrina reflections and another recipe, which highlights a favorite drink of mine that I was introduced to in New Orleans after Katrina.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Yield: 6 servings

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Classic beef and Italian sausage spaghetti and meatballs makes the ultimate comfort food. Tossed in a simple, flavorful tomato sauce and served over angel hair pasta, it's hard not to love this dish.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
  • ½ lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 large onion)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garlic, minced (about 7-8 smaller cloves)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, fresh
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (2 teaspoons fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (2 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, , whole
  • 28 oz. tomato puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano (4 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

Make the Meatballs

  1. In a large bowl, measure in the beef, sausage, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg and spices.
  2. Using your hands, knead the ingredients together until they are well combined and evenly dispersed.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop (or a cookie scoop if you'd like smaller meatballs), measure out the ingredients. Form into balls in the palms of your hand.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic clove as the oil heats, letting the garlic infuse the oil.
  5. Add the meatballs to the Dutch oven when the oil is hot.
  6. Brown the meatballs on all sides, flipping every so often with kitchen tongs.

Make the sauce

  1. When the meatballs have browned, pour in the tomato puree, water and paste.
  2. Add the seasonings -- oregano, basil, pepper, salt, red pepper -- and stir until combined.
  3. Cover the Dutch oven. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.
  4. Serve warm over spaghetti (or the pasta of your choice) with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6 servings

Serving Size:

1 serving

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 551 Total Fat: 30g Saturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 19g Cholesterol: 120mg Sodium: 891mg Carbohydrates: 36g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 12g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 35g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

Do you have any Hurricane Katrina memories?

Is it as hard to believe for you as it is for me that it’s been ten years?

6 Comments

  1. Katherine

    This looks so delicious, and meatballs over angel hair are my favorite, too. 🙂 Interesting that you went for a comfort food dish in that situation; before Gustav in 2008, I used up all the chicken in my freezer to make chicken parmesan for myself and a bunch of friends before we evacuated. We got lucky that time (thank God it wasn’t another Katrina) and I remember that pre-evacuation dinner fondly. Thanks for sharing this, and I look forward to reading about your other memories.

  2. Krysten

    I went home to Houston, then couldn’t get back for a week (or longer? Can’t remember). I think the toughest part for me watching it in Houston was that I felt like I should be there, on campus, at the paper, helping out in some way. All I could do was give blood and keep my eyes glued to the television, while all of my friends were reporting the stories in the Reveille, helping out at the PMAC, and being amazing rockstar people. Is it weird I was jealous of them?
    Also, now i’m starving. Thanks, dear.

  3. Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life

    We never know what defining moments are going to intersect with our lives, do we? And so we cope in whatever ways we can. Spaghetti and meatballs sounds like a good coping plan to me.

  4. Eileen

    I’ve been through a bunch of hurricanes on the NC coast, but nothing ever on the scope of Katrina. So scary. It definitely makes you react differently to any hurricane news from then on. Like the run-up to Sandy, when half of NYC seemed to be posting jokes about storm supplies of vodka and twinkies, and all of us who had actually been through a hurricane were all “OMG, NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.” You really need a solid dinner of comfort food when a real storm is on the way.

  5. Holly

    I can’t say enough about this spaghetti sauce! I used to doctor up a jar and call it done, and it was adequate- but I now make this fabulous sauce- and sometimes make the meatballs, and sometimes brown the meats with onions and add them to the sauce. Spaghetti is a go to when time is short. I’ve made this in my instapot as well as on the stove and also in my crock pot. This sauce is so easy and so versatile. I use it as a base for my Spaghetti Pie- and it’s always a hit when I take it somewhere. Never will I buy a jar sauce again. Thanks, Erin!

    • Erin

      THANK YOU so much for your comment, Holly! I love that sometimes, you’ll just make the sauce, while other times, you’ll add meatballs or ground meat with onions. I happen to do the same thing, depending on the amount of time I have in the kitchen. I haven’t tried this in the Instant Pot yet, though, so I’m going to try that next!

      I’m so happy to hear this recipe has been a huge assistance to you in the kitchen! I hope you keep on making all the delicious things and that I get to try some of your Spaghetti Pie sometime soon!

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