You can’t have a ‘Mafia Meal’ without homemade marinara sauce and meat-a-balls. Italy will ring you to demand you change your dinner party title, as you will have lured guests to your home under false pretenses.

The recipe we used to create marinara magic is quick and delicious, but we wanted to jazz it up a bit with some extra herbs and spices. To do this, we started the sauce on Friday night, and threw our ingredients into the pot whole, to simmer for a few hours. While the sauce was bubbling, we put together the mushroom meat as required for this recipe. It was our first time crafting these balls, and we were so glad we did this the night before, since we would have been making them through the dinner party if we’d waited. The recipe calls for eggplant, and we highly recommend cutting and heavily sprinkling it with sea salt thirty minutes before use. This helps pull a lot of the moisture out so you don’t end up with a soupy mess when your finished “meat” comes out of the oven.


Now our household is not a fan of parsley, and while this is often used in Italian cooking, we went a different route for our meatball seasoning. We ground oregano, fennel, thyme, peppercorns, garlic salt, onion salt, and pimenton in the mortar and pestle, for a fresh, evenly ground mixture. We also added an extra half cup of breadcrumbs, a few minced roasted carrots, and one extra egg to mix. The mushroom meat seemed like it would have a hard time holding up their circular shape without the additional assistance from the binding ingredients. Once everything was combined, it went into our now bursting-at-the-seams refrigerator, to rest overnight.


On the day of the party, we formed fifty meatballs on two baking sheets, and cooked them according to instruction. When they finished their allotted time we tested one, and while the flavor was great, they just didn’t have the same toothy bite as regular meatballs. We set the oven to broil, popped them back in for ten minutes and it worked! We were able to crisp the outside of each meatball, while maintaining their inner moisture. As they were cooling, we put the sauce back on to do its thing for another few hours. Before our guests arrived, we pulled out the whole garlic cloves, half onions, and basil leaves, then used the immersion blender to puree the tomatoes into a smooth sauce. If it wouldn’t have caused acid indigestion, I would have drank that sauce like it was a fresh fruit smoothie. It was lip smacking good. Like so scrumptious, that for the next few days I dreamed about putting it on pizza, over my eggs, blended with white beans as a schmear for my sandwich, and it even crossed my mind to make deviled eggs and put a dollop on each half egg.

Despite people circling back around for seconds that night, we were left with enough sauce to freeze for a future meal, and meatballs for sub eatin’ over the next two days. If you can’t/won’t/don’t whip up these two recipes, make someone an offer they cannot refuse, and they’ll make them for you.

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