“Comfort food always has something gloppy in it” was Mrs. CB’s definition this morning when we got to talking about the dinner I made last night. Saucy Meatballs and Grits is definitely comfort food and I think Mrs. CB hit the nail on the head.
The gloppy, rich smoothness of the Bob’s Red Mill grits played beautifully with the hint of acid from the tomato sauce and the fullness of the tennis ball sized meatballs. Oh for crying out loud—that sounds just like some of the “foo-foo” pronouncements from the judges on “Chopped” or “Top Chef”. It was good. It was “go back for seconds tasty”. It filled you up and warmed your belly.
That’s all that comfort food is supposed to do. We tend to make more of it than what it is. It’s simple. It’s tasty. And, OK, it’s got something gloppy like grits or mashed potatoes (or even rice if you’re making Oriental comfort food).
If you want this to sound just a bit more refined, feel free to refer to it as “Saucy Meatballs with Polenta”. At a restaurant you’d pay about $12 for Meatballs and Grits and about $18 for Meatballs and Polenta. Same meal. Different name. Higher price. This is “Southern Comfort food meets Italian”–and it’s really tasty.
OK, so I’ve posted before about meatballs and about grits. This time I made bigger meatballs—almost the size of tennis balls—because I wanted them meaty and juicy and to be the featured part of the meal–almost like meatloaf rolled into balls. I made 6 meatballs which was enough for 2 of us with leftovers (I figured on 2 meatballs each for dinner). So if you’re cooking for 4 use 1 ½ lbs of ground beef.
Recipe: Saucy Meatballs and Grits
Summary: Tasty, juicy meatballs served with spaghetti sauce over creamy yellow grits. Southern Comfort food meets Italian.
- 24 oz. ground beef
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup diced bell pepper
- 1/2 jalapeno diced
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- Granulated garlic (or fresh minced)
- Dried basil
- Dried Oregano
- Dried crushed red pepper
- 2 cups spaghetti sauce
- 2 cups Bobs Red Mill yellow grits
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ stick butter/margarine
- ¾ cup shredded cheese
- 2-3 tbsp canola oil
- Take out a sauté pan, sauce pan and large pot. Take out a medium bowl, cutting board and chef’s knife.
- Put the ground beef in the bowl.
- Chop the onion, jalapeno and bell pepper and put them in the bowl.
- Add the bread crumbs (If you don’t have any, put 3 slices of bread on a baking sheet and put into a 250 oven for about 30 minutes, then crush them in a plastic bag. Or put half a stack of saltines in a plastic bag and crush them).
- Add the egg, salt, cumin, garlic, basil, oregano and crushed red pepper. How much? Enough. Go a bit light. You can always add more later.
- Mix the whole mess with your hands—use your fingers like tongs tossing salad.
- Make 10 equal sized hunks of the mixture and gently roll in your palms to form each into a ball. Set aside.
- Put the sauté pan on the stove set to medium. Add about 2-3 tbsp canola oil.
- Put the spaghetti sauce in the small sauce pan and put on a burner set to medium low. When it starts to bubble & splatter, turn the heat to low and cover the pan.
- Put the meat balls in the hot pan. Turn about every 1 ½-2 minutes—3 to 4 turns. You want to brown them not cook them through.
- Put the water, broth and margarine into the large pot. Add a teaspoon of salt. Put on stove burner set to high. Bring to a boil.
- Remove the meatballs from the sauce pan with tongs and put into the sauce pan. Turn heat down to low.
- When the water/broth boils, turn the burner all the way down as low as it will go. Slowly add the grits while stirring. Put the cover on the pot and leave it on the burner for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove everything from the stove. Add the cheese to the grits and stir until it’s melted and incorporated into the grits.
- Plate a mound of grits with a couple of meatballs and ladle sauce on top.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
That’s a lot of ingredients and a lot of instructions but this is really a simple dish to make. Customize your meatballs anyway you’d like. They should go into the sauce about half to 2/3 done and come out fully cooked, juicy and really tasty.
This will really warm you up. The grits are smooth and buttery/cheesy. The meatballs are flavorful and moist and the spaghetti sauce marries everything together into a celebration of tasty comfort food.
The Cheap Bastid Test: The ground beef costs about $3.75. You’ll use about $1 worth of grits. The broth costs about $.50. The egg is $.20. The onion, bell pepper and jalapeno will set you back maybe $.50 and bread crumbs another $.30 if you make them the way I do. What’s the total? $6.25 to feed 4 for dinner! That’s incredible.
This is a little bit Southern and it’s a little bit Italian. It’s ALL Comfort Food and it’s ALL good.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!