Okay, I'm going to tell you a secret. The spaghetti sauce was Ragu. Yeah, I cheated. Honestly, I rarely use canned spaghetti sauce normally. I love to make my own sauce, but tonight I was in a huge rush, and I am getting a little burned out on cooking. So when I was rushing around, stressed as I tried to make everything before Isaiah went to karate for the first time and with a couple of extra kids in the house, I saw the bottle of Ragu in the pantry and I took the shortcut. So, there you go. I give you permission to do it, too.
Rachel's Meatballs (adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)
1 lb lean ground beef
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
coarse salt and ground pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape mixture into meatballs using a tablespoon to measure (36-40 meatballs).
2. (This step is optional, the recipe uses about twice what we eat in a dinner, so I always make the full batch and freeze half. Or a make a double batch to freeze when I find ground beef for a great deal.) Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze 1 hour. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container (I like to double bag them in gallon-sized freezer bags).
3. Place meatballs on a rimmed baking dish lined with foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven, 10-15 minutes if fresh, 15-20 if frozen. Drain on paper towels before adding to sauce or soup.
*Frozen meatballs can also be cooked right in the soup or sauce: Simmer meatballs, covered, in liquid until cooked through, about 10 minutes. (I prefer to drain the grease, however.)
Olive Garden's Fried Mozzarella
1 lb block mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 cups homemade or store-bough marinara sauce (we used our spaghetti sauce)
1. Cut the mozzarella into either sticks or triangles.
2. Beat the eggs with the water and set aside.
3. Mix the bread crumbs, garlic salt, and Italian seasoning and set aside.
4. Blend the flour with the cornstarch and set aside.
5. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep-fryer to 360 degrees (I did it on the stove).
6. Dip each cheese stick in the flour mixture, then in the egg wash, and then coat with the prepared bread crumbs.
7. In batches of 4, place carefully in the hot oil and fry until golden; this takes just a few seconds, so watch carefully. (I undercooked them at 5-6 seconds each. I'd try 8-10 seconds next time.)
8. When golden, remove the sticks from the hot oil and drain on paper towels.
9. Serve with the marinara sauce, for dipping.
The Verdict: (We voted on the mozzarella sticks, since the spaghetti and meatballs was a normal dinner.) 3 thumbs up, 1 thumb sideways, 2 thumbs down. Oh, dang, I can't count again! Actually, things were a little hectic because Isaiah was getting ready to go, and I think I missed his vote. But we had two 5-year-old visitors, so I took their votes instead. I undercooked them a bit, so I think they would have gotten better reviews if the cheese was entirely melted. I will definitely try them again, though, since Adam likes them and they were a good version overall.