The thing about meatballs is they are too often a supporting actor to a diva like spaghetti.
In this dish, they are the star, loaded with garlic and gently simmered in a light tomato broth. Not a sauce in the traditional sense, but a thinner one that lightly bubbles up around the meatballs, giving them the extra steamy boost they need to step into the limelight.
There are six cloves of garlic in this recipe, and every one of them is needed. It’s the main flavor source for both the meatballs and the broth, which gets assembled in the same pot that the meatballs are cooked in, because you should never waste a good amount of fatty meat drippings.
There’s a bit of sour cream in the meatballs, which might seem a little weird, but it adds a creaminess that helps keep them from drying out. I added an egg in there, too, to make sure everything sticks together both times the meatballs are cooked.
This is actually a good recipe for using up fresh tomatoes, especially of the grape variety, but when it’s no longer peak tomato season, whole peeled tomatoes from a can work just as well and make this a more pantry-friendly dish. But listen up. Do not go and dump a bunch of perfectly whole tomatoes into that pot. You must crush them first — and no, don’t just buy crushed canned tomatoes; they won’t have the same texture.
Use your hands to crush the tomatoes as they come out of the can and into the pot, applying enough pressure that they squish and burst and leave a red tomatoey mess in your palm. It’s fun, I promise!
We’re looking for a brothy consistency here, so go ahead and use the juices from that can for another purpose. We don’t want any thick, tomato liquid to cover our precious meatballs, because they will be going back into the Dutch oven after an initial sear to finish cooking.
I serve these right out of the pot, with a towel wrapped around the sides so no one burns themselves at the dinner table. You could eat this with pasta, but for once in my life I would recommend something besides a noodle.
Your best course of action? Plenty of freshly grated cheese. A hunk of good bread. And a spoon large enough for slurping meatballs and all that tomato goodness in one bite.
Garlicky Meatballs in Tomato Broth
1 ½ pounds ground beef, pork or turkey (I like to use a mixture)
6 garlic cloves
½ cup finely chopped fresh chives
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (32-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Place the meat in a medium bowl, then add 3 cloves grated garlic, chives, parsley, egg, sour cream, paprika, salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Season with black pepper. Mix until combined.
Roll the mixture into meatballs; between 1 and 2 inches is an ideal size. Place on a plate or piece of parchment paper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a few meatballs at a time and cook until they are all golden brown all over. Rotate them gently as they cook to get even browning; this should take about 10 minutes.
Remove meatballs with a slotted spoon to a clean plate, leaving any meatball fat in the Dutch oven. Back on the heat, add the onion and 3 cloves sliced garlic to the Dutch oven and stir. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until onion is softening.
Add the tomatoes, using your hands to squeeze and crush them as they go into the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add vinegar and 1 cup water. Stir and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce and cook until it’s just a tad thicker, about 8 minutes.
Return the meatballs to the pot and cook on medium-low heat until meatballs are cooked entirely, at least 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve meatballs right out of the pot, topping with Parmesan cheese and more fresh parsley.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times