Spaghetti and Meatballs

The secret to forming meatballs is to keep your hands wet, which prevents the meat from sticking to your fingers. These meatballs, along with provolone cheese and your favorite sandwich trimmings, can also be stuffed inside a baguette or a sub.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ Spanish onion, halved and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
Pinch sugar

1 slice white bread, torn in pieces
¼ cup whole milk
1 to 1¼ pounds ground beef or ground turkey
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, or 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound linguini

1. To make the tomato sauce: Place a large heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, partially covered, until thickened, about 1½ to 2 hours. Stir occasionally. (The sauce can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 2 months.)

2. To make the meatballs: Place the bread and milk in a large bowl and let it sit until all the milk has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Mash the mixture. Then add the beef, parsley, egg, onion, basil, oregano, pepper, and Parmesan cheese and combine well. Divide into 24 parts and form into balls. (The meatballs can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours or frozen up to 2 months.)

3. To cook the meatballs: Place a large skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes in all. Cover with the tomato sauce and cook over low heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Serve with the meatballs and tomato sauce.

From The $50 Dinner Party: 26 Dinner Parties That Won’t Break Your Bank, Your Back, or Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, 1998)