In my opinion, meatballs are almost never a weeknight option due to the amount of time it takes to throw all the ingredients together. However, this recipe really, really seemed to come together in a jiffy!
Cost: Approximately $2.32 per serving.*
Skill Level: Easy
Time to Make: 1 hour 15 minutes
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes (You're going to just purée these later, so you can buy a good quality crushed tomatoes too.)
¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
1 large egg, beaten to blend
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium onion
1 large garlic clove
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
4 large sprigs basil
16 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta. (I used pipe rigate.)
Prep Ingredients: Purée tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth; there should still be some dime-sized pieces remaining. Set aside. (If using crushed, you can skip this step.) Dice onion. Mince garlic. Crack egg into a small bowl and use a fork to whisk until smooth.
In a medium bowl, combine panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and 1.5 tsp salt (I recommend using less, these were quite salty.) Once combined, whisk in the egg and cream. Add beef and mix until just combined, being careful not to overwork. Form into 1''-diameter balls and transfer to a plate.
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.
Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and reserved tomato purée (or crushed tomatoes). Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices; continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Add pasta water and stir to coat all the pasta. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.
*Note: Common pantry items such as sugar, salt, oil, and herbs are not factored into the cost of the recipe.
Designer and photographer living in NYC. I work as a design manager in ed tech and I make tasty recipes in my spare time!