Mom making Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

People say that the memory of smell is one of our strongest and when I smell my mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs I am transported.  Suddenly, I’m looking up at my elders, hanging onto pant legs, bickering with my brothers, and feeling unbelievably wrapped in home and love.

My mom and dad are here for a visit and now our girls are asking for Grandma’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.  For me, this interlinking and weaving of memories and recipes is utterly soul-satisfying.  I can remember as a child anticipating this meal at a friend’s house, mouth watering and barely able to contain my impatience, and then having the reality fall absolutely flat.  It’s a wonderful phenomena when nothing can compare to what your mom makes.

Now that I have a mom and AM a mom, there are times when I think that it’s just so unfair.  I’m the mama and no one can take my place.  Most of the time this fits me just perfectly.  But what makes parenthood so tough and simultaneously so rewarding is that you don’t get to choose your days, take a day or a night off, or go on vacation.  At three in the morning, night after night of broken sleep, I’m the one who has to nurse the babies, no one else can do it for me.  After a long day of work and irritation that I am unable to slough off, I’m the one who gets the best and the worst of my children’s days, no one else can do it for me.

The same is true of comfort food – no one else can do it for you.  It matters that you make it with your hands, that you chose to spend a portion of your day thinking about and creating nourishment for those who will come together around your table.

For tips on making meatballs, Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs and Meatball Subs here’s the column link.

Mom’s Spaghetti with Meat Balls
This is the meal that as kids we would ask for more than any other.  It was our favorite birthday dinner for many years.

1 28-ounce can of pureed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4  teaspoon dried oregano
1/4  teaspoon dried basil
1/4  teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
Meat Balls:
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 large egg

Add everything to a stockpot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  While the sauce is simmering make the meatballs.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together the meatball ingredients.  Form them into 11/2-inch balls.  Place the meatballs in a single layer in a baking pan.  Bake until cooked through (around 1/2 hour).  Drain off the fat and place the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Serve with your favorite spaghetti or linguini.

Serves 6 to 8

Thanks, Mom.  For all of it.

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