Pop Pop’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

There are some recipes you never change. Recipes that are shared from generation to generation, bringing with them memories of family meals filled with stories and laughter. These are the recipes that elevate our health more than a kale salad or tofu burger. My dad (Pop Pop) has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. My children grew-up on Pop Pop’s spaghetti and meatballs (my mom handed over the spaghetti reigns several years ago). He was given this recipe from an Italian family who lived in his small hometown. I’m convinced that the most important ingredient in the recipe is my dad because know matter how hard I try, mine never tastes quite as good. However, the second most important ingredient is the cheese. If you pick the right cheese, you can get pretty close to his recipe. My dad always uses freshly grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese (he says the stinkier, the better).

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For the meatballs: 3 pounds lean ground beef, 1 cup grated Locatelli cheese, 3 eggs, 1 sleeve of saltine crackers, 1 tsp garlic powder

Set oven to 400 degrees. Place saltines in a large resealable plastic bag. Roll with a rolling pin until fine crumbs are formed (or process in a food processor which would be faster but I use a rolling pin because that’s how my dad does it). In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, grated cheese, eggs, cracker crumbs and garlic powder. Blend together with your hands until combined (do not over mix).  Roll the meatballs and place them on a baking sheet sprayed with oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, turn each meatball, and bake for another 10 minutes until browned.

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For the tomato sauce: (Two) 64 ounce bottles of tomato juice, (one) 12 ounce can tomato paste, 2 cups grated Locatelli cheese, 1 teaspoon garlic powder

In a large saucepan, add all of the sauce ingredients.  Blend with a whisk until smooth.  Cook the sauce on medium heat until it begins to lightly simmer, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat to low and after the meatballs have browned, add them to the sauce.  With the lid off, cook on low heat for at least an hour, the longer you cook it, the thicker it will get.  I make this on the weekend allow it to cook for up to 4 hours. This makes a large batch of meatballs and sauce. I freeze several containers of the sauce to use at a later time.

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